Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What Happened To Michael Vick's Dogs?

While most of the public has been inundated with stories about the "fall from grace" of Michael Vick and the emerging success of Atlanta's football team under star quarterback Matt Ryan little has been written about the true victim's in Vick's crime -

In a remarkably poignant article of the fate of Vick's dogs Sports Illustrated writer Jim Gorant writes "The Humane Society of the U.S., agreeing with PETA, took the position that Michael Vick's pit bulls, like all dogs saved from fight rings, were beyond rehabilitation and that trying to save them was a misappropriation of time and money."

"The cruelty they've suffered is such that they can't lead what anyone who loves dogs would consider a normal life," says PETA spokesman Dan Shannon. "We feel it's better that they have their suffering ended once and for all."

"Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim,
That he'll live by the rules that the world makes for him.
'Cause there's a noose at his neck and a gun at his back,
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac." - Neighborhood Bully

So, "they" (PETA & HSUS) feel it's better that the dogs suffering is ended once and for all...? Maybe, "they" should have not used have exploited the victims of this heinous crime by soliciting donations in the name of helping provide humane treatment for Vick's dogs while lobbying to have them killed.

What is wrong with an animal rights movement so far removed to lose focus over lobbying for compassion for the very rights of the victims whose rights they are defending?

Gorant's story is not only heart warming but paints a different picture on a breed that has come under attack by communities seeking to ban this breed out of existence (BSL) to a collaborated effort on the part of the large animal rights groups and law enforcement who views death of the breed as the only viable option.

Dogs debunk the theory that aggression is the product of combined genetics and social upbringing with a startling story of dogs responding to love and kindness with an unconditional love of their own. Unlike their human counterparts dogs don't live in the past refusing to forgive but instead live in the world of today.

The neighborhood bully just lives to survive,
He's criticized and condemned for being alive.
He's not supposed to fight back, he's supposed to have thick skin,
He's supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in. - Bob Dylan

It is this premise that raises the question on whether dogs should be judged by "canned" extreme temperament tests that ignore a dog's future when condition of abuse and torture are replaced by an existence based on love and respect.

Is canine temperament a product of the past or can dogs be taught to trust simply by removing the fear that drives the demons of mistrust? Should dogs who are victimized by gamers who fight have their rights victimized again by paying with their lives?

How many shelters, fueled by merciless prosecutor's who claim to advocate for animals place unrelenting restrictions on this breed which all but seal it's doom?

BSL makes no sense.........

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Gift of Death to an Extreme Animal Rights Movement

Nathan Winograd once wrote in his personal opinion that PETA's Ingrid Newkirk was suffering from Munchausen by proxy. he drew this analogy based on PETA's animal rights philosophy that tends to encourage "humane euthanasia" as a viable option to end an animal's suffering.

Based on their own reporting PETA has a mind boggling 97% rate of killing animals in their care. Much of this Munchausen illness translates into PETA's "animal rights" policy that defends being opposed to No Kill philosophy's, killing and dumping the bodies of "saved" animals in dumpsters, identifying those who rescue as demented hoarders, rigid opposition to TNR for feral cats, and a morality that shelter animals are better served by being humanely euthanized all while holding a moralistic approach that killing animals is reprehensible.

This philosophy of defending policies of humane euthanasia while professing to protect animal rights is a contradiction that can not be explained. One would assume that at the point an animal is killed any right or lack of it the animal might be entitled to becomes a mute point.

A few years back I made the choice to distance myself to such "extreme" thinking that included a vision of the future that domesticated pets be returned "to the wild". A philosophy that does not represent my core values. After all, if PETA has an issue with those of us who "own" our pets then am I too a villain and therefore a target of their extremist thinking?

Owning and enjoying pets should be about choice and responsibility. The nucleus for moderate animal advocate philosophy must include legal opposition to pet limit laws, BSL, mandatory spay/neuter and nuisance animal laws that include provisions that allow for impounding and killing as a sentencing guideline.

Those of us who include ourselves as part of an animal advocate movement must speak out and oppose positions of killing with kindness that the extreme animal rights movement like PETA promote.

"In 2006, an official report from People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows that they took in 3,043 animals, of which 1,960 were cats, 1,030 were dogs, 52 were other companion animals, and 1 was a chicken. Of these, they killed the chicken, killed 1,942 cats, 988 dogs, and 50 classified as “other companion animals.” PETA found homes for only 2 cats, 8 dogs and 2 of the other companion animals."

To understand why Ingrid Newkirk and PETA seek out animals to kill we must understand the vast differences in political philosophy those of us who advocate for owning and rescuing animals have as opposed to those who seek to destroy that human/animal bond.

By PETA's own admission they have a 97% kill rate. This is based on PETA's own reporting to the Commonwealth of Virginia, which only requires "record keeping and reporting of only those animals taken into custody... for purposes of adoption." It does not include those animals taken into "rescue" that are not for adoption but instead end up being humanely euthanized and deposited in a convenient dumpster.

Despite $30 million in revenues, PETA found homes for only 12 animals. An additional 21 cats and 25 dogs were transferred to "another agency" (likely a kill shelter since PETA has a “policy against No Kill shelters.”) The rest were put to death. Arguing "animal rights" for animals that are just been killed seems to be an exercise in disingenuous thinking.

There is also something far more disturbing going on here than Newkirk’s history. Newkirk has been a long time opponent with "No Kill" sheltering. Groups like PETA, ASPCA and HSUS have historically supported sheltering policies like extreme temperament testing and the twisted practices of self proclaimed "temperament goddess" Sue Sternberg.
Sternberg's claim to fame was "inventing" that often maligned "Assess A Pet" shelter extreme temperament testing system. With her views on killing frightened but innocent shelter animals who fail her unscientific tests, she herself should be classified as a sociopathic animal killer.
Yet, the "Big Three" in the animal rights movement embrace the very theology used to justify killing shelter dogs. Extreme temperament testing that lacks any scientific clarity has proven to be the tool utilized in killing shelter animals where otherwise justification does not exist.

Animal advocates can describe the theories behind this extreme thinking but they can not explain how killing a confused shelter animal protects that animals rights. If we really care about supporting animal rights as opposed to the rights to humanely kill without reason then there is no alternative then to oppose such negative thinking.

This is not just a disagreement in philosophy between No Kill supporters and traditional “catch and kill” proponents. That is the debate going on with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), where their reputations and donations are being threatened. With the Humane Society of the United States the philosophy of manipulation and over regulation of animal ordinances which take away choice and responsibility have come in question. HSUS can not explain the humane choices they support that allow for impounding and killing the very pets they claim to advocate for. Advocating to kill is simply not humane.

HSUS is the nation's largest and wealthiest humane advocacy organization in the nation. It has assets in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and it has a budget in excess of one hundred million dollars annually. It claims the support of twelve million members and it has a powerful media presence.

More importantly, their magazine, Animal Sheltering, is sent to over 3000 shelters nationwide. Their animal sheltering conference, HSUS Expo, is the nation's largest of it's kind, drawing sheltering staff from across the country. In fact, HSUS Expo invites Newkirk to give presentations at their national animal sheltering conference.

Two years ago Newkirk gave a video presentation on why "Pit Bulls should be killed" to unwitting shelter directors who swallow this garbage philosophy and transform it into policies that all but eliminate even the meekest of pits. Armed with PETA's "kill all pits" rantings and the twisted temperament testing theology of Sue Sternberg is it any wonder that pit bulls have become the target of every shelter maniac with a message and license to kill?

The ASPCA has distributed Sternberg's video "Temperament Testing for Dogs in Shelters" to over 3,000 shelters as well. That the APSCA continues to sponsor Sternberg's seminars that teach shelter directors "how to" select dogs to kill speaks volumes on the real agenda of an animal rights movement gone mad.
Not to be outdone, Sternberg is a frequent contributor to The HSUS Animal Sheltering Magazine as well. There seems to be a competition in the animal rights movement on who can wrestle the support of shelters by providing the most up to date methods for justifying the business as usual practice of killing what they do not understand.
Sternberg continues to cash in and be "awarded" for her contributions to a shelter killing crusade lead by the generals of HSUS/ASPCA while animal rights followers worship at Ingrid's sacrificial altar as well. While the leaders of the animal rights movement can continue to look the other way in seeking life saving alternatives do those who truly support humane treatment for all companion animals do the same with an undying support?

PETA’s strategy for engaging in “damage control” and “public relations spin” when a shelter or community which kills is challenged by those seeking an alternative to systematic killing of shelter animals only undermines their other platforms. After all, how can an animal rights proponent so opposed to the killing of chickens lobby, promote and support theology that kills pit bulls and feral cats? Chickens and livestock deserve the right to live but feral cats and pit bulls do not?

With animal rights friends like these, animals truly do not need enemies.

Animal shelters nationwide look to the leaders of PETA, HSUS and the ASPCA for guidance and direction. Many have blindly followed the slick spin of huge advertising budgets that allows them to "drink the kool aid spiked with killing philosophy that run rampant with this "gift of euthanasia" philosophy. In all my years of doing rescue and advocating for shelter animals I have yet to encounter one who wants to die. In fact, animals are remarkably resilient and only understand a genetic disposition to survive.

When activists in communities working for reform pressure local government to embrace the alternatives to killing, HSUS responds by defending shelter policies, their failures and refusal to change, calling advocates for change "impossible", "unreasonable," and even professing "hoarder tendency" - after all "we can't save them all from this miserable world in which we live". By sowing seeds of doubt among public officials, including our county leaders in government, our county attorney's and animal control we are now inundated with extreme animal ordinances which mystify the constitutional legal community.

It is time that the "Big Three" of an extremist animal rights movement be held accountable. It is no longer acceptable that animal advocates swallow every attempt to tighten the noose on those who lack the knowledge of how to be a responsible pet owner with a huge net that also ensnares those who are responsible pet owners.

No kill does not support hoarding. Yet, the insinuations of hoarding have been used to justify pet limit laws, total bans of tethering, nuisance dog barking ordinances and veterinary care laws that counter a philosophy of education as opposed to persecution in the new wave of animal ordinances being promoted throughout the country.

Those who support total bans on tethering have theorized that tethering causes social issues in dogs that leads to aggressive canine behavior. There is no scientific data or studies that support these claims. In fact, as long as a dog is trained, socialized, and given proper attention the containment method used is not a factor in it’s behavior, or temperament. Dogs left in fenced enclosure who are not socialized or given proper attention will display the same behavioral characteristics as dogs who are constantly tethered.

An unsocialized dog, regardless of containment method with be genetically disposed to try and escape. Dogs lacking socialization will display "guarding" tendencies regardless of the method when forced to survive in an unsocialized environment. Dog behavior, including running at large and aggressive behavior only becomes problematic when a dog is not properly trained, not properly socialized, and not given proper attention, to think otherwise is simply Orwellian double-speak.

Yet, animal rights groups continue to support legislation that allow tethered animals to be impounded to enforce what in effect are total tethering bans. This thinking is not to be confused as supporting chaining or tethering any animal 24/7, in fact, those who advocate for animals would not support fencing to contain an animal 24/7 as being more humane. Pet owners need to be taught and offered other alternative on teaching their pets to be part of the family as opposed to part of the landscaping that surrounds one's home.

Ingrid Newkirk once said “How dare you pretend to help animals and turn your back on those who want an exit from an uncaring world!”. The uncaring world she is describing is the ignorance of thinking that an animal would prefer death as the only alternative to survive. That has always been the disconnect the hard core animal rights movement cannot defend. You can not espouse "rights" on an animal you want to see killed - well, unless those are "last rights".

Those who truly advocate for an animals "rights" to existence should vehemently reject this point of view and actively campaign against it. Not only for the dogs and cats that HSUS and PETA propose to kill in the future but whose interests in theory they exist to protect.
Moreover, HSUS/ASPCA/PETA’s position that animals in shelters, pit bulls, feral cats, confused dogs, do not have a right to live subverts the entire foundation upon which animal advocates claim to support. Once you understand that philosophy then it becomes apparent why supporting animal advocating attorney's who include impounding and killing tethered animals, dogs genetically predisposed to bark or dogs and cats that simply need medical attention contradicts the universally accepted fundamental right advocating for shelter animals to live.

In any truly humane movement enjoyment of the "right to life" is a necessary condition of the enjoyment of all other rights. A movement cannot be “rights” oriented and ignore this fundamental right to live. If an animal is dead, the animal’s rights cease to exist, the rest of this theology become irrelevant.

We can not reject nor refuse to acknowledge the right to life as it relates to dogs and cats while supporting those same rights for other animals including chickens and pigs. It is condescending for PETA to claim one can not "eat a hamburger" while wanting to kill my dog. We can not advocate against "fur" while wanting to kill off feral cats.

Nathan Winograd wrote "The relationship between Americans and their animal companions can open a door to larger animal rights issues. In our daily interactions with dogs and cats, people experience an animal’s personality, emotions, and capacity both for great joy and great suffering. They learn empathy for animals. It is not a stretch that someone who is compassionate—and passionate—about their pets would over time and with the right information be sympathetic to animal suffering on farms, in circuses, in research facilities, and elsewhere."

Teaching compassion and responsibility towards animals as opposed to this blatant attempt to criminalize far too many aspects of owning pets will not only support a true movement of those who understand rights for animals, but more importantly the rights of people to continue to own animals as pets.

I am not my dogs "guardian" - I am their keeper with ownership rights recognized by our legal system. It is a folly to think we will have more protective rights to "keep" our pets if we simply follow the twisted thinking of an animal rights movement that quite frankly doesn't appear to understand the relationship domestic companion animals have in our lives. As a guardian of my pets am I therefore subjected to more governmental bureaucracy on the choices I make in caring for and raising my pets?

Regardless of whether you believe in “animal rights” or not; regardless of whether you are a vegetarian or not; regardless of where you stand on animal issues unrelated to animal sheltering, PETA’s position of "killing for kindness" is not only insane but irresponsible as well. Giving money to support irresponsible political posturing of the Big Three simply supports the very killing animal advocates oppose.

The best gift we can give is the gift of death to a truly inhumane animal rights movement.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fallacy of Change - NO on Gwinnett's Proposed Barking Dog Revisions

Gwinnett County has rolled out the proposed changes in the now controversial "Public Nuisance" dog barking provisions. These changes are in "draft" form as submitted by the county attorney's office.

While there are a few "cosmetic" changes to the ordinance nothing at all was changed under the penalty provisions which allow the county solicitor's office to recommend six month jail terms, up to $1,000 in fines and potential loss of any family pet cited under the ordinance.

Since these sentencing guidelines can be stacked for owners of multiple pets there is nothing in the proposed changes that would prevent pet owners from facing life altering jail sentences, financial ruin through extremely large fines and more importantly the loss of a families pets. In other words, those who own four pets still face up to two years jail and $4,000 in fines while those who own eight pets could see those penalties doubled.

The revised law still fails to address the county's practice of charging barking violations based on the number of dogs owned as opposed to only citing dogs accused of actual violation of the barking ordinance. You could still face jail time - pay fines and even have impounded dogs who aren't even involved in a complaint.

The ordinance also fails to address the costs associated with enforcing laws that still don't include involving animal control in investigating any allegations of ordinance violations. These costs will include the additional expenses occurred trying to enforce another poorly written ordinance in Gwinnett's Recorder's Court.

The county attorney's office failed to take heed to the costs being run up in my failed prosecution on violating the existing dog barking ordinance. Do the citizens of Gwinnett really want to see huge increases in our county court budget that already faces an overloaded case load on crimes that seriously do impact our community?

Are we going to see recommendations further down the road for courts set up exclusively to prosecute dog barking cases and jails to house pet owners convicted of owning a "barking dog"?

As written in this draft these changes are totally not acceptable.

Absent the issue of ignoring the major problem of common sense sentencing guidelines here are the proposed changes. I will address a number of legal and constitutional issues this draft still fails to address.

Instead of seeking new solutions towards laws that encourage and reward responsible pet ownership our leaders in "animal law" issues continue to draft and pass draconian animal ordinances which provide for the impounding of family pets for even minor first time violations.
Instead of seeking ways to prevent pets from becoming "shelter fodder" our leadership creates new categories and excuses for impounding and adding to the number of pets killed. In effect, our laws discourage and punish those who might choose to adopt a pet that otherwise is killed.

10-33. Public nuisance animal.

(a) A public nuisance animal shall mean and include any animal that:

(1) Is repeatedly found at-large; or
(2) Damages the property of anyone other than the owner; or
(3) Is vicious; or
(4) Attacks without provocation; or
(5) Makes any vocalizations for more than 15 minutes without interruption or more than 30 minutes if the vocalization is intermittent. These time limits do not apply if the vocalizations are given as a warning to the presence of an intruder. Officers enforcing this subsection are not required to measure the vocalizations with the use of a sound level meter. Upon notification of a complaint concerning such vocalizations, the owner of such animal shall be given written warning indicating that such animal is creating a disturbance, so long as the complainant provides the officer with the address of the owner. If the disturbance is not resolved within two days or a subsequent compliant is made for such animal by a different individual, who resides at a different location from the first complainant, a court summons shall be issued in accordance with the requirements of this articles; or(5)

(a) animal that makes any vocalizations or more than 15 minutes without interruption or more than 30 minutes if the vocalization is intermittent shall be defined as a public nuisance animal.

(1) These time limits do not apply if the vocalizations are given as a warning to the presence of an intruder.
(2) Officers enforcing this subsection are not required to measure the vocalizations with the use of a sound level meter.
(3) Upon notification of a complaint concerning such vocalizations, the owner of such animal shall be given a written notice from the Animal Control Unit indicating that such animal is creating a disturbance and advising the owner of some possible solutions to rectify the nuisance. The complainant must provide the officer the address of the owner and a physical description of the offending animal before any written notice shall be sent. The owner shall have three (3) days to resolve the disturbance.
(4) If the disturbance is not resolved within three (3) days and the animal control unit receives a second complaint from the original complainant, he or she will be asked to provide a sworn statement regarding the disturbance. The original complainant will also be required to obtain a sworn statement from another individual regarding the disturbance. The statements must be from individuals residing at different addresses in close proximity to the animal creating the disturbance. Upon receipt of the sworn statements, a citation will be issued in accordance with the requirements of this ordinance.
(5) If the disturbance is not resolved within three (3) days and the animal control unit receives another complaint from another individual in close proximity to the animal creating the disturbance, both complainants will be asked to provide a sworn statement. Upon receipt of the sworn statements, a citation shall be issued in accordance with the requirements of this ordinance.
(6) The original barking complaint will remain on file and active for a period of thirty (30) days following the three (3) day resolution period. If no further complaints are made during the thirty (30) day period, the complaint shall expire and the process begin again.

(c) Any such public nuisance animal may be impounded and the owner or possessor charged for a violation of this article.

What follows are the pitfalls and legal issues this draft fails to address. They are:

!) While section (1) addresses an exclusion for "intruders" the law fails to identify what the court's interpretation of intruder is. In my case the judge ruled that intruders DID NOT include what most pet owners view as customary issues they would EXPECT their dogs to bark at including cars parked in front of your house with people who could be stalking your property, strangers walking your neighbors back yard, strangers attempting to access your neighbors property or parked in their driveway thieves breaking into your neighbors, pedophiles watching and filming neighborhood children playing.

This law is written to interpret an intruder to be "someone who physically enters your property".

In fact, our county solicitors office has pointed out that under the current law dogs left outside even in fenced and secure yards for more then the allotted thirty minute timeframe the law allows for "intermittent" barking would be an admission of violating the ordinance even if the only evidence was based on a complaint statement.

2) Section (2) not only doesn't require animal control to measure the noise levels but fails to require any type of investigation to verify that the pet owner is in violation of the ordinance. In fact, these complaints can be filed AT animal control with animal control issuing citations without even verifying that any of the facts stated on complainant's sworn statement are true. Animal control is not required to investigate or even visit the location were the dogs are being cited.

In my case the sworn statement filled out that resulted in my citations being issued included several obvious false statements INCLUDING the fact the complaining party claimed to reside at the house located next to me when in fact she lived several miles away. Animal control not only failed to investigate this issue but did NOT require her to furnish any PROOF of residence including displaying a driver's license. Obviously someone who doesn't even reside in "close proximity" of where the alleged barking dog violation occurs CAN NOT swear to facts such as the "dogs bark day and night".

This law allows for abusive manipulation by real estate speculators and those who might seek some sort of vindictive retribution on issues that have nothing to do with the dogs being cited.

In fact, the sentencing guidelines encourage those who simply don't like dogs, don't want dogs living in their neighborhood to have these dogs removed by exploiting this poorly written ordinance. Those of us who have responsibly owned dogs for years are at the mercy of any unethical predatory realtor only interested in selling a property nearby with no long term commitments to our neighborhoods.

No where in our county codes do we grant private citizens the power to not only bring about criminal charges but in fact manufacture evidence to support those changes WITHOUT any policing investigation except for barking dogs. We would not allow a citizen to go to their local police station and swear out a statement that they witnessed someone driving under the influence or committing road rage WITHOUT assigning an investigating to verify if these changes were even remotely true - yet dog owners do not have the same DUE PROCESS rights?

Further it is an embarrassment when our county attorney's office who writes these drafts and laws fail miserably in addressing truth and credibility issues with their own witnesses. This is the same attorney's office that threatens lengthy jail terms while denying trials by jury, that completely fails to understand what compliance to discovery motions are all about. Only in dog barking cases would the solicitor be allowed to introduce manufactured video's at the trial while ignoring any filed discovery motions in the process.

I would suggest that Gwinnett County Attorney's office spend a little more time brushing up on a document called the U.S. Constitution - especially the first year law school sections that address due process and cruel and unusual punishments. That would be a change we as citizens are all entitled to. We don;t ask for much as citizens on this fine community but we do ask for fairness.

3) Section three is equally confusing - while it suggests that the owner of such animal shall be given a written notice from the Animal Control Unit indicating that such animal is creating a disturbance and advising the owner of some possible solutions to rectify the nuisance - it doesn't address HOW the owner is going to be advised on possible solutions if animal control is not required to investigate any of the accusations involved. I would suggest that this issue of investigating allegations prior to bringing about citations is seriously needed in any ordinance change being proposed.

It is ironic that dog barking appears to be the ONLY animal violations that lacks this step in the process. All of the other issues addressed including dogs running at large, no tags, damage to property require investigations and citations being written based on this investigation.

4) Section (4) addresses the requirements of requiring sworn statements but what are the penalties involved for those who file false and frivolous charges? Is the county going to continue a practice of accepting at face value that all citizens are being honest with their allegations or are pet owners entitled to an accepted "innocent until proven guilty" concept that seems to get lost in these cases.

Simply because a citizen "owns" a dog is not evidence that the dog violated the statute absent of any investigation into the claims on the sworn statement. Going back to my case in addition to being falsely accused of "harboring" dogs that barked day and night I was also accused of breeding dogs, kicking and beating my dogs, keeping my dogs in horrible conditions and that in fact all of the dogs I owned were guilty of violating the ordinance. Despite their being NO evidence that any of these allegations were even remotely accurate animal control focused on the allegation that there might have been a violation of the barking dog ordinance. I say might because even knowing all the facts they still failed to verify any of the claims and accusations on this "sworn" statement so why should pet owners feel any more protected under the revisions being proposed?

The statement " The statements must be from individuals residing at different addresses in close proximity to the animal creating the disturbance. " would require definition as well. This change would have eliminated one, two or all three of the witnesses used in my case who did not "live" in close proximity to the animals doing the barking. The fact is the old law allowed two witnesses who lived several miles away and a third witness who lived over a football field away and admitted to being hard of hearing at the trial. Arguably he couldn't possibly hear "disturbing" dog barking coming from my address. Even IF barking could be heard coming from the direction of my house it would be impossible to determine IF those dogs were mine or IF an intruder was responsible for causing the dogs to bark.

It is ironic that our county attorney's office used a witness with those hearing limitations who testified that while he was hard of hearing and required a hearing aid he could still hear my dogs from his bedroom which prevented him from being able to sleep. I guess the thought of turning down the volume on his hearing aid never crossed his mind? Does the law address these issues? does not but instead uses these weak excuses in obtaining convictions.

5) Section (5) has the same problems as section (4).

6) Section (6) is the only provision that makes any sense. It would have also prevented my case from ending up in court and ending up costing local taxpayers thousands of dollars in court costs that could have been spent elsewhere. Under the existing ordinance it is unclear as to if a pet owner makes substantial changes to correct a problem whether or not those changes were effective or whether there might be a different issue involved.

There are a number of common sense issues that the county attorney's omitted from the proposed changes. I often wonder if the people who draft these laws even own a dog let alone more then one.

News flash for the county attorney's office - DOGS BARK 0 but typically they have a very good reason for doing so. While I fully understand that neighbor's are entitled to privacy and I too would be upset if my dogs or my neighbors dogs barked well into the night the fact is under this law it is also virtually impossible to allow your dog out in your yard for more then thirty minutes without risking being cited if a neighbor feels so inclined.

A much simpler approach would be to address the issue of barking dogs under the county noise ordinance. It is ironic that if a pet owner chooses to allow their dog(s) out in the yard while they are mowing the lawn and that process takes more then thirty minutes they can be cited if there dogs bark intermittently for noise but the much louder noise coming from the lawn mower is legal. It's also concerning that a pet owner who simply takes their dog(s) out in the yard to play at lunch time could be cited if that activity includes playful intermittent barking that lasts for more then thirty minutes - YET property owners who enjoy "playing" with their leaf blowers are completely legal. While can understand the outrage if a property owner pulled out their lawnmower or leaf blower at 3:00 AM it defies logic why the close to 40% of Gwinnett families who own pets are denied access to their own yards during daytime activity. My "offense" occurred in the middle of a Sunday afternoon when many of my fellow neighbors were tending to their chores including possibly mowing their lawns.

I'm still waiting for one of our county legal scholars to explain to me why three minutes of dogs allegedly behaving like dogs on a sunny afternoon is such a danger to the community that twelve year jail terms are in order?

Wouldn't it be much to eliminate all the large government ineffective bureaucracy by simply developing a mediation process to settle these "neighborly" disputes? While that doesn't support case loads for the legal community in arguing when and if the dog barked it does act as a guardian to the county's funds.

A mediation group of enlightened adults (who stop acting like adolescent's) which could include someone representing animal control and the county solicitors office and who could mediate any disagreements without tying our courts on such frivolous nonsense?

This law can be easily manipulated by neighbors who have issues or squabbles that have absolutely nothing to do with the dogs involved. Rather than drawing our neighborhoods together, squabbles that lead to the loss of our family pets will instead serve as a catalyst for ripping them apart. Many citizens who choose Gwinnett as their home also have a love affair with their family pets. The image of having Fluffy or Fido ripped from the family home is one that will seriously damage an already depressed market for the homes we own.No one wants to live in a community where a family lives in fear---even that fear that their family pet could very well be next to be accused of being a "public nuisance." Our community will be judged on how we treat our elderly, our children and our family pets. That is the community's core of family values.

Please forward your comments to:

Our commissioners
Commission Chairman:Charles Bannister770.822.7010

District 1 Commissioner: Lorraine Green 770.822.7001

District 2 Commissioner: Bert Nasuti770.822.7002

District 3 Commissioner: Mike Beaudreau770.822.7003

District 4 Commissioner: Kevin Kenerly 770.822.7004
Current Animal Advisory Board Allison Wilkerson Rooks Gwinnett Municipal Association Carla Brown Member at Large Tricia Smith Gwinnett Extension Service Dennis Kronenfeld Feline Issues Gloria Kennedy Gwinnett Humane Society Gail Laberge Chairperson - Lawrenceville Kennel Club Clara Seals - Member at Large Mary Lou Repress New Shelter Director

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Meeting Gwinnett Animal Advisory Council

There will be a meeting of Gwinnett's Animal Advisory Council's at the Gwinnett Shelter this Thursday evening (October 16th) at 7:00 PM.

While it is unclear what the agenda of issues to be discussed there are early a number of animal welfare issues that need clarification. With the dramatic increases in dogs and cats being killed at the new Gwinnett's Animal Shelter the focus has shifted to the role the county's animal advisory council should have moving forward.

Commissioner Mike Beaudreau has recommended a dialog be opened with local animal advocates and pet owners on alternatives that would open up county animal welfare policies and solutions to those who feel disenfranchised in the process.

Proposals that are being raised which include replacing four council members up for reappointment, term limits on how long volunteers can serve on the AAC and a process of having each of the four elected commissioners nominate one dog owner and one cat owner to the council thus expanding the makeup of the AAC.

Changing the stagnation of ideas coming out of the current AAC is only the first process in turning the tide in our shared animal welfare policies. We must rebuild the current "bridge to nowhere" between the shelter and the local animal rescue community in order to accomplish our community goals.

This recent article in the Gwinnett Daily Post addresses many of the challenges the new shelter faces.

Just because you build a larger, newer shelter does not mean you'll have more adoptions - especially if you leave everything else the same. Comparing numbers from June of 2007 from the old shelter and June of 2008 in the new shelter adoptions are down by 20%. There is an even more dramatic reduction in the number of pets going to local rescue groups with those numbers down by close to 60%.

In June of 2007 there were 124 animals sent to rescue out of the old shelter on Hi Hope Road while that number dropped to 54 in June of 2008. While the problems associated with numbers of pets increasing in the new shelter makes finding solutions more tenuous the issue of a dramatic reduction in the number of pets going to rescue groups is more problematic. There is clear evidence that the rescue community feels not only disenfranchised in the process but fears the intimidation issues as well.

Despite repeated requests animal shelter reports for all of 2007 and the first three quarters of 2008 are not available through the county's web site.

A huge market for second hand pets has flourished when instead people are exposed to wonderful dogs and cats while shopping at local pet supply stores. Shelters finding their numbers of pets being killed increasing have turned instead to building solid working relationships with local rescue groups and by seeking out community volunteers to participate in off site adoptions.

Common sense dictates that pet owners/taxpayers are relied on to fund animal control and therefore should be entitled to help with oversight on county's animal policies. Taxpayers have the right to choose between funding "kill as you go" shelter policies as opposed to implementing cost saving no kill or low kill policies.

This would be a stark contrast to the current makeup of the council which is and has been controlled by special interests.

The last several years has been a turning point for many animal welfare programs seeking to find solutions to rising euthanasia rates when they discovered that pets sell themselves if you simply get them in front of people who are most likely to adopt. No matter how much you dress up any kill shelter there is still going to be the issue that many pet owners simply don't want to have to face the guilt associated with picking out the next family pet in that type of environment.

For shelters that partner with local pet supply stores opportunities are many. Throughout the Atlanta metropolitan area there are dozens of pet supply stores like Petsmart that have formalized adoption centers on weekends and catered the programs to meet the community's needs.

The advantage of marketing pets through rescue groups and pet supply stores also serves pet owners too. People adopting a fostered dog or fostered cat from a licensed rescue group have an abundant choice of pets who are more socialized, healthier and a better fit for their family. Many pet owners who would like to add a rescue pet as the next family pet are ill equipped for dealing with many of the issues that come with adopting straight out of a county kill shelter.

When you cut off that line of local discussion with pet owners and animal advocates as well you destroy all hope towards finding economical and compassionate solutions that no kill movements offer. To get to no-kill it involves developing the partnerships with rescue groups in the community AND with involving local volunteers as part of that solution.

True partnerships only flourish in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust not in one where condemnation and threats flourish instead. True partnerships grow through seeking out solutions rather then focusing on finding blame. A no-kill community learns how to harness the expertise of many of it's experts in those fields.

A true no-kill policy benefits all pets, mutts, pure breeds, cats by providing an example of responsible pet ownership. Responsible pet owners, responsible animal advocates and responsible shelter staff work as a team in helping to teach others the role they play in that no-kill community.

Over the next four years Gwinnett is in serious need of major changes in nor only our poorly written animal ordinances but more importantly how the county handles it's animal control issues. It is no longer acceptable to simply accept killing off excess dogs and cats as an acceptable solution financed by county funding. Revamping the animal advisory council in a manner that will encourage new ideas is a step in the right direction.

Please take the time to attend tomorrow evening's meeting and have your voice heard on these very important issues that serve all of our community's pets.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Our long drawn out trial on dog barking came to a conclusion today with Judge Muise finding me guilty on ten counts of violating Gwinnett's Barking Do

Our long drawn out trial on dog barking came to a conclusion today with Judge Muise finding me guilty on ten counts of violating Gwinnett's Barking Dog Ordinance. I am thankful that Judge Muise chose not to punish my hounds and instead placed me on two years probation.

I am forever grateful for the excellent work of Attorney's Anna Sumner and Jennifer Miller of Alston & Bird for representing the hounds in this case. Anna and Jennifer took this case on pro bono and understood that my primary concern was and has always been to make sure ALL my hounds were safe. So tonight the only noise I hear is the sounds of hounds snuggling and snoring beneath my feet.

The hounds and I would also like to extend a warm thank you to all in the rescue community and fellow pet owners for your support over these last difficult months.

AJC - Lilburn man with 25 dogs gets 2 years’ probation for noise

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Why Is Gwinnett Killing Our Feral Cats?

With last weeks sad news that a local woman's house cat was mistakenly killed at Gwinnett's shelter after failing what appears to be the shelter's "feral cat" evaluation the question arises "why are we killing our feral cats?"

Even the wildest cat can learn to live around humans and may even exhibit pet like behavior to the person who feeds him. Those locally who care for cat colonies with feral cats witness cats who rub up against their legs and even perhaps purr, just like pet cats. Don't mistake their aloofness as being a symptom of a dangerous nuisance animal.

Contrary, even the most pampered house cat who escapes and runs loose in the wild can survive with the deftness of the most voracious raccoon, rabbit, squirrel or other wild animal. Wouldn't that cat deserve the same respect and rights of survival as any wild animal?

Behaviorally speaking the answer again appears to be that feral cats are wild animals and such should be treated by animal control as such. We have no more right to address feral cats through "trap and kill" policies as we do to the wholesale slaughter of our communities birds, rabbits, squirrels or raccoons.

If a pet cat is abandoned or runs off and gets lost in the woods, has kittens and the kittens that grow up wild because they have no contact with people, are they wild or domestic? Technically, they would be domestic because of domesticated parentage but don't all domesticated cats ultimately come from the wild?

Defining a feral cat as a "nuisance" in the absence of any nuisance behavior is simply wrong. Society goes to great length to protect "wild animals" with great efforts being placed on "allowing" man to live amongst them.

Regardless of whether the cat is the most beloved and pampered pet or the wildest outcast, shelter policies that claim to be based on humane policies view the feral cat as without a human home to protect them and therefore is better off taken to a shelter and killed. Does Gwinnett Animal Control view un-owned cat’s life as a series of brutal experiences? Is Gwinnett responsible for "protecting" these cats from continued andfuture suffering. Or is the ultimately suffering endured when these cats are rounded up and killed within hours of arriving at the shelter?

The reality is that all animals living in the wild face hardship—and feral cats are no exception. Since no animal groups support the trapping and killing of other wild animals—raccoons, rabbits, fox—why do we reserve this fate for feral cats? Wild animals would not choose to have their "suffering" to survive in the wild replaced with feline suicide so why is man so quick to make that choice instead?

If feral cats are genetically identical to wild animals, and they survive in the wild like wild animals, andthey are unsocial to humans like wild animals, and they share the same hardships as wild animals, and if they can and do live in the wild like wild animals, shouldn’t we treat them as we do wild animals—by advocating on their behalf, pushing for their right to life, and respecting and protecting their habitats?

In a humane community why should we condemn feral cats simply because of mistaken logic that some may face hardship while a vast majority peacefully co-exist in nature? I have to say I am not a "cat person" but do respect all animals rights to co-exist in our community. Wholesale rounding up of any animal must be condemned especially in light of other communities that have set up programs for feral colonies implementing trap, neuter, release in controlling the population of the colonies.

Please contact your commissioner and animal control and express your displeasure with Gwinnett's policy of killing feral cats. Slaughtering animals is not part of any animal control policy our community should support.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Foreclosure Market Killing Our Pets

The AJC ran an interesting article that only confirms what those of us in the rescue community have suspected for many months.
The housing slump and high number of homes going into foreclosure have caused shelter intake numbers to dramatically increase.
Families throughout the Atlanta area are having to make the heartbreaking decision of surrendering their family pets when they lose the family home.

Even neighborhoods like my own are not immune to this slumping housing market. A glut of older homes for sale and an over development of new homes which have caused many property owners watch the value of their homes drop. The house next door went unsold for a number of months before it too went into foreclosure last summer.

While those of us who own homes riddled with empty foreclosed homes nearby which causes concerns over decreased housing values and potential crime magnets.

While the housing market has caused a crisis for families and their pets it has also spawned a market for real estate speculators looking to cash in on the glut of foreclosed homes throughout the Atlanta area. Many of these speculators view the pets living in these homes and surrounding neighborhoods as a hindrance in cashing in on this market.

Susie Porter, a local Solid Source realtor, bought the run down home located next to the hounds and I last summer. My initial relief in watching the house being repaired would soon turn to a nightmare when Porter decided that my hounds stood in the way of her attaining her own windfall profit by quickly selling the property.

In the AJC, Susie Porter, a real estate agent from Snellville was quoted as saying "I bought the house next door out of foreclosure last year with plans to fix it up and live in it."

While honesty and ethics seem to get lost in Porter's real desire to make a quick $65,000 cashing in on her new investment property, what doesn't get lost was her obsessive hatred for "hound dogs". While moving her family in was never an option - moving my hounds out was.

Porter's claim that the dogs barked might have been confused with what she really meant "DEAD DOG'S - DON'T BARK..........". After placing her extensively remodeled "must see inside" home on the market for only ten days Porter pounced on the opportunity to have the dogs impounded under Gwinnett's radical barking dog ordinance.

According to her comments in the AJC she didn't want to see me jailed "I just want him to be reasonable." There's nothing reasonable in trying to get my hounds impounded and sent to our new county shelter where they would become simply a blip on a statistic sheet. A brand new shelter already killing for space even though it had only been open for a few short months.

While Cobb County appears to have had a 15% increase in the number of pets killed during the first five months of 2008 Gwinnett's numbers had soared 50% higher. How many of these numbers are from people who simply dump their pets? How many are from people who are encouraged to dump their pets from unethical realtors like Porter who view the family pet as "disposable". How many of the pets being killed could of and should have been offered alternatives that would have kept them out of the shelter in the first place? These are the sorry questions we all need answers to.

Sadly, Porter is not alone in taking socially irresponsible policies on marketing houses that include family pets. Are these corporate positions part of a training program to deal with dogs and cats in marketing theior listings? One of her colleagues offers this advise on "leashing the family dog" in the backyard in order to show the house. Another suggests that "pet odors" are an important consideration when trying to sell your house.

One can only guess how many family dogs and cats end up in our shelters simply because home owners act irresponsibly and follow Solid Source's "professional" advise. Of course, tying the family pet out in the back yard would be a violation of Gwinnett's anti-tethering ordinance but this seems to be inconsequential in making that sale.

Those who advocate for our community's companion animals need to speak out against "corporate" policies that put any pet at risk. Realtors who work for Solid Source who don't share these same "sorry" irresponsible opinions on selling homes with pets need to speak out as well.

Marketing of houses must take into consideration the safety of all of our family pets and not become fall out that drives the escalating shelter intake that costs far too many pets their lives.

"Through May, the Gwinnett Animal Welfare and Enforcement Center has put down 2,570 dogs and cats. Last year, during the same five-month period, it euthanized 1,720."
"I don't know if it's [foreclosures], or if it's just sorry people," says Gwinnett Police Lt. Mary Lou Respess, who oversees the center. "But we have noticed an increase" in unwanted animals.
Maybe it's the "sorry" overzealous enforcement of Gwinnett's revised animal ordinance that has animal control recommending impounding pets on fixable offenses that are contributing to this crisis.

The numbers being reported by the AJC directly contradicts the information being posted on Gwinnett's Animal Shelter web site which states: "With pet overpopulation on the rise, we're proud to report a decrease in incoming animals and an increase in animals placed to individuals and rescue groups through our shelter."

The AJC should be commended for seeking out the truth about Gwinnett's shelter numbers especially since that information IS NOT being shared with local residents. It is deplorable that OUR county animal control refuses to post updated records on the number of pets that enter and die in our shelter. Nothing has been posted since year end 2006.

Despite our shelter director's opinion it's not just the "sorry people" causing the increases in "unwanted" pets turning up in our shelter. It's the small number of "sorry" realtors like the state's witness against my hounds that drive these increases as well. It's the new direction of sorry shelter management policies that help drive this huge increase in killing by not investigations allegations before recommending impounding family pets.
Instead of developing programs to help pet owners keep their pets out of our shelter we are witnesses a wave of prosecutorial sentencing that adds to the shelter numbers.
There appears to be a disconnect with our shelter's management still convinced on blaming the "sorry people" in the community for skyrocketing intake numbers. These intake numbers include an equally disturbing number of "wanted" pets that are being forced into our shelter over minor violations of our revised animal ordinance. Correctable ordinance violations that result in forcing pets into an overcrowded shelter is simply irresponsible.
This "sorry" policy comes right out of our county leadership in animal control and the courts that should be protecting the sentinel interests of our community's pets. Our pets are not the problem - it's the owners who should face the burden of penalties under the law.
This disturbing transgression is also shared in our local court system as well. Solicitor Joe Randazzo was quoted as offering me a deal to avoid trial and jail: "give up 10 of the 25 dogs, and accept 24 months on probation." While that was an improvement over animal control's recommendation of surrendering over 20 of my hounds in order to avoid a twelve year and $24,000 fine sentence any sentencing arrangement for barking dogs that leads to even one death is simply irresponsible. Are our courts so ill advised as to how irresponsible those sentencing arrangement would be?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Gwinnett Revised Animal Ordinance

Last night after a very lengthy board meeting I was able to give comments to the commissioners which addressed many of the issues surrounding Gwinnett's new revised animal ordinance.

There are several points that I addressed. They include issues of sentencing and killing dogs on ordinance violations. I also discussed more precisely the way that the animal advisory board drafted and passed this law. In a packet that was given to each of the commissioners I included the open records copies of the animal advisory board meeting from 2006 onward.

Additionally, copies of the animal advisory bylaws, copies of the Georgia Canine Coalition board of directors and copies of all the donors who contribute to Gail's political action coalition that serves to protect the interest of many of Georgia's kennel clubs.

The entire draft of my presentation (which I condensed in my comments to the board) was also included. What follows are my prepared comments that clearly ask to have the revised animal ordinance retracted with public hearings being scheduled to help draft a RESPONSIBLE animal ordinance in Gwinnett that serves not only the public that owns pets but more importantly a law that serves the best interests of the pets themselves. Any such responsible law should include:

To support and promote laws, regulations and court decisions which positively benefit the lives of wild, exotic, farm and companion animals in the State of Georgia, and to oppose existing or proposed legislation negatively impacting animal welfare;

To advocate for the effective enforcement and prosecution of Georgia laws designed to protect wild, exotic, farm and companion animals, and in particular, to advocate felony prosecutions when applicable and appropriate, and to facilitate educational opportunities for those involved with such enforcement and prosecution; and

To support the strengthening of spay/neuter initiatives designed to address companion animal overpopulation in the State of Georgia.

Those last three comments come from the mission statement for the Georgia Legal Professionals for Animals web site. One would question how the current law addresses these concerns especially in light of the fact that both the President and Vice President of GLPA were provided input in drafting this revised law.

It is one thing for the Georgia Legal Professionals for Animals, Inc. to espouse an ethical and moral precept which maintains that animals are sentient beings, with a capacity for pain and suffering and an intrinsic right to their own lives. It is an entirely different concept to understand the rationale of forcing impound on those same pets who already enjoy living safely in responsible homes.

The concept of protecting and serving the needs of ALL of my pets from a cruel and inhumane sentence of ending up in our county's shelter is what I will continue to advocate for.

Board of Commissioner’s Meeting June 24th, 2008

I am here to discuss the revised animal ordinance passed by this Board of Commissioners in January of 2007. This ordinance was passed without allowing any public reading of the proposed changes or even more importantly – asking local pet owners for their comments on the new law.

Thousands of pet owners are now discovering that even being a responsible pet owner can lead to criminal charges being filed for such minor infractions as barking dogs, dogs tethered for short periods of time and a number of other issues that micro-manage the care we provide our pets.

Instead of focusing our animal resources on educating citizens on how to be responsible pet owners, our resources are being directed towards prosecuting and impounding pets with the worst possible consequences leading to more deaths at our brand new $15 million dollar shelter.

Gwinnett has historically been a pet friendly place to raise our families – including our family of pets. Funding for pet friendly projects, be that new dog parks or more recently our new shelter have met with overwhelmingly approval of these expenditures. This revised law allows for sentencing our family pets into impound situations that will fill this shelter with barking dogs.

It is the outrageous penalties that the ordinance authorizes that have the pet owners outraged. I am facing twelve years in jail and up to $24,000 fines for what is a first time citation for alleged dog barking. That threat has been clearly presented during the negotiation process trying to force me to surrender my family of hounds.

We are outraged with the board of commissioners for authorizing a law that would seize and dispose of property by ending the lives of our pets in sentencing. Those who support such draconian punishment not only lose our respect but our future votes as well. You do not force responsible pet ownership with irresponsible punishment that leads to killing our family pets.

The Nuisance Animal "dog barking" statute does nothing towards drawing our neighborhoods together but instead serve as a catalyst for ripping them apart.

This revised ordinance allows for any entity to persecute and manipulate the court systems to rid neighborhoods of our family pets. This includes “predatory” realtors and speculators who purchase properties in our neighborhoods merely to make a quick profit. Selling these homes at all cost, including the lives of our family of pets, only to move on once that sale is completed.

With this developer’s mantra of “dead dogs don’t bark”, anyone who allows their pets outdoors where barking may occur can now be cited. Even if the dog is barking at a squirrel it is in violation of the ordinance if the complaining party hears the barking.

Since the law YOU passed doesn’t require any investigation by animal control – doesn’t require that any noise level requirements be met or proved – it makes defending this law virtually impossible. This law leaves open for interpretation under what guidelines how even the word intruder comes into play.

Witnesses who live miles away can still file complaints under this ordinance.

Even though I am facing twelve years in jail, huge financial fines if convicted, recorder’s court has denied me a jury trial because ordinances citations don’t qualify under county rules.

Recorders Court apparently isn’t familiar or doesn’t follow a document called the U.S. Constitution that entitles all citizens the right to be heard by a jury of our peers.

No one wants to live in a community where and live in fear - fear that their family pet could very well be next to be accused of being a "public nuisance". This law doesn’t support responsible pet ownership but instead criminalizes the ownership of pets.

As disturbing as the revised animal ordinances are what is more disturbing is the blatant way that this law was created.

In March of 1993 a resolution of the board of commissioners created the Animal Advisory Council. The purpose of this group to provide a CLEAR CHANNEL for communication and dialog with citizens who responsibly own and cherish their families pets and the Board of Commissioners.

I don't think I need to clarify that transparent government is essential in allowing all citizens voices to be heard on important issues in our community. To those of us who own and cherish our pets there would be nothing MORE important then the passage of revisions to our animal ordinances.

How the Animal Advisory Council drafted and agreed on the new revised law remains a mystery. Those revisions were passed on "staff recommendations" in a total elapsed time of SIXTEEN SECONDS. No public reading of the amendments were posted nor was citizen comments allowed prior to this becoming the new animal ordinance.

The real problem with the passage of this law is HOW it became law in the first place. Despite several attempts at trying to determine when, why and how this bill morphed into the nightmare that it is - there is NO DOCUMENTATION on how the revised bill was even created. It appears to have grown like a mushroom in the dark of night.

During the process of drafting this revised ordinance in 2006, AAC meetings were routinely moved from location to location, scheduled meetings appear to have only minimal information available or minutes have been misplaced. Minutes approved by the council don’t even exist.

In an even more flagrant abuse of the open meetings act the last meeting was held in a Lawrenceville Restaurant where COUNTY business was discussed. I would hope that NO ONE on this board is going to suggest that having to purchase a meal to attend an animal advisory meeting even remotely complies with Georgia's Open Meeting Act.

The current Animal Advisory Council has become a special interest advisory group as opposed to providing locals pet owners with a say in our county’s animal policies. NO ONE on that group represents your average pet owner yet there are TWO members who represent the breeders and kennel clubs.

These two members, Gail Laberge and Clara Seals also serve as board members for the Georgia Canine Coalition – a political action group that takes money from breed clubs in Georgia. Having the Georgia Canine Coalition involved in setting animal welfare policy in Gwinnett is as offensive as allowing a coalition of developers with their special interests run the county’s planning council.

One needs to question whether the needs of pet owners and rescue groups are being circumvented to the special interest needs of local breed clubs instead?

Why should issues of saving shelter pets become a priority when the kennel clubs are competing for the very same pet homes in our community?

Officers chosen for the Animal Advisory Council, Gail Laberge and Clara Seals are expected to do their jobs – they hold key positions on the board being the chairperson and secretary that controls and approves vital meeting functions including scheduling, meeting agenda’s and keeping of council’s records.

These are standard procedures clearly spelled out in the Animal Advisory Council’s bylaws. These standard procedures once enacted should have lead to proper ordinances being proposed instead of this controversial ordinance that was recommended for passage.

As officers who should be following parliamentary procedures it appears from open records requests that this council has failed miserably in that responsibility.

It bewilders the average citizen that meetings that were held two years ago still have records being stored and kept under Ms.Laberge’s control. This is NOT open government but a governmental entity that drafts laws for approval under a veil of secrecy and EXCLUDES the local citizens from that process.

My question for all of you is what are YOU going to do about this? Obviously those of us who own pets and vote are totally outraged at these abuses in open government.

Nothing short of removing both Laberge and Seals will restore confidence in the Animal Advisory Council. They need to be replaced by an open process that includes members of the community who own and rescue pets. Otherwise, if THIS Board of Commissioner’s cannot or will not provide the oversight the law requires then this council needs to be disbanded.

Citizens are simply tired of the same old worn out promises of our elected officials who promise to watch out for our interest up until they are elected, only to have the same officials serve the special interests groups once elected.

There are several coalitions of pet interest groups being formed now that these issues are in the public’s eye. The worst-case scenario of a “perfect storm of outrage” will be a joining of all these groups to form ONE voice in making sure our voices are heard. If we can’t get our voices heard through the current Board of Commissioners then rest assured we can and will have our voices heard in the election booths in November.

Randy DeCarlo

Finally, Jock Connell mentions that the new shelter has increased the number of hours the shelter is open for the public to adopt pets. That information is NOT currently on the county's shelter web page. I might also suggest if serving the needs of our community's pet owners is a priority then maintaining accuracy on the shelter's petfinder's site should be important as well.

Those who agree that we need to completely reevaluate our animal ordinances through public hearings should please email the county commissioners with that request.

Current Animal Advisory Board Tricia Smith Dennis Kronenfield - Feline Issues Gloria Kennedy = Gwinnett Humane Society Gail Leberge Chairperson and Lawrenceville Kennel Club Allison Wilkerson Rooks Gwinnett Municipal Association Clara P. Seals Member at Large Carla Brown Member at Large Mary Lou Repress New Shelter Director

County Commissioners
Commission Chairman:Charles Bannister770.822.7010

District 1 Commissioner: Lorraine Green 770.822.7001

District 2 Commissioner: Bert Nasuti770.822.7002

District 3 Commissioner: Mike Beaudreau770.822.7003

District 4 Commissioner: Kevin Kenerly 770.822.7004

Crosspost freely

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Speaking out for Gwinnett's pets....

A now controversial revised animal ordinance passed in Gwinnett by our Board of Commissioners in January of 2007. This ordinance was passed in all of SIXTEEN seconds without allowing any public reading of the proposed changes or even more importantly – asking Gwinnett’s County of pet owners and rescuers for their comments on the new law.

Now, thousands of pet owners throughout the county are discovering that even being a responsible pet owner in Gwinnett can lead to criminal charges being filed for such minor infractions as barking dogs, dogs tethered for short periods of time, no tags, and a number of other issues that micro-manage the care we provide our pets.

Even issues of veterinarian care which should be a decision made between a pet owner and their family vet now comes under scrutiny of animal control's discretion. All of these offenses should be "fix it" citations but instead the new revised ordinance allows the county to impound your pet. Pet owners sentenced to jail for not complying with judicial sentencing are being threatened with jail terms only further endangering their ability to care for their family pets.

Instead of focusing our animal control resources on educating citizens on how to be responsible pet owners our animal control resources are being directed towards prosecuting and impounding dogs with the worst possible consequences leading to more deaths at our brand new $15 millon dollar shelter.

How this revised ordinance became "law" is even more disturbing. This revision of animal issues in Gwinnett was passed solely on the recommendations of the county attorney's with the blessing of Gwinnett's dysfunctional and highly secretive Animal Advisory Council.

Gail Laberge, the long time or should I say "life long" chair of AAC claims this group has "no power" but only acts as an advisory for the Board of Commissioners. To be clear, Gail represents the interest of local kennel clubs and not the interest of those pet owners and rescue volunteers with a vested interest in preventing pets from entering our animal shelter.

This law needs to be retracted and a dialog with the community's pet owners and rescue volunteers needs to be heard before any changes in our ordinances are passed into law.

More importantly the makeup of the Animal Advisory Board is in serious need of new blood which will include active participation by local pet owners and private volunteer rescuers who have for too long now been silenced from this process. While Laberge may be powerless to do anything but protect her own special interests WE do have the power of electing our commissioners to protect our family interests INCLUDING our families of pets.

There will be an evening session with the Board of Commissioner's on Tuesday June 24th at Gwinnett's Judicial Center. The meeting starts at 7:00 PM and the public is permitted to speak at the end. With the entire Board running for re-election it is imperative that the voices of our community's pets be represented as well as Gwinnett's other "important issues. Those of you who have something to add to this dialog are encouraged to write out your thoughts which can also be presented to the commissioners for public consideration.

WE all have strong feelings on making Gwinnett a more humane community and for moving towards a direction of building a no kill community. Aren't we tired of all the dire excuses of blame that changes nothing and allows the killing as usual become our standard animal control policy?

I look forward to seeing you there.

Permission to cross post

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

AJC - Man won't take probation, give up dogs to avoid jail

The following article has been printed in the AJC. I have prepared comments to present to our county commissioners which will address the serious problems with Gwinnett's revised animal ordinances.

It is one thing to complain about the problems these laws cause especially the resulting impact of pet owners forced to surrender their family pets or who simply dump the family pet to prevent facing being cited under the new ordinances.

Gail Laberge can claim that the animal advisory council acts only as an advisory group but it is in that capacity that this group has failed to protect responsible pet owners and more importantly the very lives of pets now at risk. Gail Laberge does not represent the interests of thousand of Gwinnett pet owners who are responsible for their family pets. She doesn't represent the rescue community either.

Holding animal advisory meetings at local resteraunts and having AAC records in disarray does not come close to complying with the laws concerning open records or open meetings.

Gwinnett's Animal Advisory Council is in need of new leadership which understands how to reach out to pet owners in the community instead of simply providing meaningless lip service instead.

Man won't take probation, give up dogs to avoid jail
Randy DeCarlo intends to complain to Gwinnett commission
The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionPublished on: 06/18/08

A Lilburn man accused of violating the county's noise ordinance with his pack of two dozen hound dogs plans to bark at the county commission Tuesday.

Randy DeCarlo said Wednesday that he wants the commission to address his concerns about Gwinnett County's new animal ordinance and the policies — including those governing euthanizing cats and dogs — of Gwinnett's animal control department, and the county's animal advisory council.

Georgie Chidi/AJC
Gwinnett County Solicitor Joe Randazzo has offered Randy DeCarlo, seen here with a few of his dogs, a deal to avoid trial and jail: give up 10 of the 25 dogs, and accept 24 months on probation, but the 55-year-old animal rescue advocate has refused.

"Obviously, the first thing we're going to discuss is the animal ordinance and how it effect responsible pet owners," DeCarlo said.

Police issued DeCarlo 24 citations for violating Gwinnett County's nuisance noise ordinance last year. DeCarlo potentially faces 12 years in jail — six months for each of the 24 charges. Gwinnett County Solicitor Joe Randazzo has offered DeCarlo a deal to avoid trial and jail: give up 10 of the 25 dogs, and accept 24 months on probation, but the 55-year-old animal rescue advocate has refused.

DeCarlo's case, originally scheduled for trial this month, has been pushed back to August 26 in Gwinnett County Recorder's Court. DeCarlo has replaced his attorney and is seeking a dismissal, he said. He has also made open records requests of the county's animal advisory council for meeting minutes, seeking information to bolster his claim that the county's policy-making process on animal issues hasn't been open to public scrutiny.

Gail Leberge, chairwoman of the council, said her group has been in compliance with the state's open meetings laws and is open to the public. "We're strictly an advisory group," she said. "We have no powers."

Georgia Canine Coalition Opposes Banning Gas in Shelters

While the rescue community has worked long and hard trying to change the inhumane practice of ending a pet's life with the use of gas - the same kennel clubs who support GCC oppose these changes as well.

Gail Laberge, however, through her Georgia Canine Coalition OPPOSES HB 1060. Laberge wear several hats in lobbying for laws that concern our family pets. She is the longtime chairperson for Gwinnett's Animal Advisory Council which helped draft and passed one of the most repressive animal ordinances in Georgia.

Apparently the Gwinnett bill's wording which allows sentencing of six months in jail, up to $1,000 in fines and impounding of the family pet for such minor first time offenses such as dog barking, fifteen minute tethering violations, no tags on collar ect doesn't bother Gail as much as the wording on a law that outlaws the use of gas in Georgia's shelters.

Gail is also the AKC's Board Member for legislative liaison meaning she claims the knowledge and determination to protect pet owners from abusive regulations that threaten our family of pets - well, that is everyone except those who live in Gail's home county of Gwinnett.

Here's Gail's position on supporting the current laws that allow gassing in our shelters.

Georgia Canine Coalition's policy position on "HB 1060: Ban use of Gas Chambers." OPPOSE!!! The bill is currently pending before the House Committee on Agriculture & Consumer Affairs."

House Bill 1060 was introduced on January 31, 2008 and is in the House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee. This bill deals with euthanasia in shelters, training and certification of certain persons authorized to euthanize animals, and the record keeping and public reporting of certain information by all rescue groups and those designated as a “public shelter agency”. It defines a “public shelter agency” as “any facility operated by or under contract with the state or any political subdivision of the state for the purpose of impounding or harboring seized, stray, homeless, abandoned or unwanted animals. Such term shall include any veterinarian or veterinary clinic which operates for such purpose n addition to its customary practice”. The GCC has serious concerns with this bill as it is written and therefore opposes it.

(G.C.C. Item 9.) HB 1060: Ban use of Gas Chambers. OPPOSE!!! The bill is currently pending before the House Committee on Agriculture & Consumer Affairs. Write (faxes are best) and urge a public hearing on this bill; tell committee members to vote NO on H.B. 1060.

Here is HB 1060 which would ban the use of gas in euthanasia of shelter animals. It always amazes me that Gail would have a problem with the wording of bills like HB 1060 but seems completely oblivious to the wording in Gwinnett's Revised Animal Ordinance.

Can we really trust Gal Laberge to protect our pets in Gwinnett?