Sunday, January 13, 2019

Jedi for the Win

Look at Jedi's ribbons!
We went back to Deland on Saturday for more Barn Hunting. Jedi needed one more leg to earn his Open (RATO) title. First time in the ring he found both rats, made the tunnel and climbed in 1 minute, 39 seconds -- earning him the last leg, the title, first place and high in class. We walked out with a bunch of ribbons! Woohoo.

I had paid for two runs (just in case) and we were offered the opportunity to move up to a senior run. The senior ring is twice as big as the Novice/Open ring. It also contains four hidden rats and has two 90-degree turns in the tunnel. Yikes. Jedi wasn't as thrown off as I had predicted. He found two rats and was sniffing out a third when the judge called time. It was a long day of hunting for all of us. Afterwards, we went to a dog-friendly restaurant with friends. That was a lot of work for Jedi and he napped through lunch.

We wore him out
Trooper tagged along for socialization. He was touched by a bunch of people and seemed to relax a bit (but not as much as I'd like). He more-than-tolerated my friend Barb -- mostly because she was feeding him roast beef.

The boys were restless on the 90 minute ride home. Hubby passed our exit and headed for the dog park. Jedi and Trooper romped for about 45 minutes before we called it a day. That was enough to drain whatever pent up energy they had!

It was a quiet Saturday night for us. I got some uninterrupted computer time, Hubby watched some TV and we all turned in early. Hooray for dog sports! -- K

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Lulubelle's Power Plush

Trooper is hard on toys. He loves plushy, squeaky toys. And he loves to tear them to shreds. If something lasts more than a week I consider it a win. I spend too much money on toys (and too much time picking polyester fiberfill aka "squeaky guts" off my carpet).

One of the things in Trooper's win basket from the match in Savannah was a Lulubelle's plushy toy by Huxley & Kent. I'd never heard of them before. But the tag said that:


It went onto say that "Each whimsical POWER PLUSH toy is fused with a layer of durable mesh on the inside to make these high quality, soft plush toys hold up to the scrappiest canines! No loose pieces and strongly stitched reinforced seams. Squeeze! Squeak! Slobber! Repeat!"

Challenge Accepted!

I gave the toy to Trooper and told him to do his best. He did. It's been chewed so much that the squeaker end is flat. Surprisingly, it still squeaks -- even after being thrown in the washing machine a half dozen times. Two months of tough love and the toy still looks like this:


I'm happy to say that Lulubelle's plushy toys are as tough as advertised and this one passed the Trooper test. -- K

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

True Story

Posted on my private FB wall
Last Sunday a friend texted me a screenshot from Facebook. Some knucklehead had a picture of his dogs running loose on the beach -- on a public Beach Life page. I found the post and clicked on Knucklehead's name. His page was set to public -- allowing anybody to anonymously view it. And the page was full of videos of his dogs running loose on the beach. Naturally, FB and GPS auto-filled the name of my small beach town.
I watched the videos and discovered that:
  • The houses in the background revealed that all the videos were shot in the same two-block stretch.
  • All the videos were posted between 8 and 8:30 in the morning.
So . . . 8:15 on Monday morning I entered the beach at the south end of the suspected range and turned left. Can you guess what I saw? Two dogs running loose. Knucklehead was shocked when I wrote him a ticket. I couldn't believe it was that easy! BTW, I didn't tell him about my detective work -- that's between you and me.

Today's tip: If you're going to break the rules, don't advertise it on Facebook. Want more tips? Check out Things to Say to Guarantee a Ticket and Dumb Ass Dog Owners. If you get a ticket it's your own dame fault! ❤ ya, -- K

Friday, January 4, 2019

NOT As Seen on TV

People watch Animal Planet and Nat Geo Wild and assume that they know my job. It's frustrating. They don't realize that shows like Animal Cops and The Incredible Dr. Pol are the result of lots of creative editing. That one hour episode was most likely filmed over several days (or weeks). I had many calls last month that reminded me of this misconception. Below are a few things I'd like to clear up.

Microchips

Yes, microchips are wonderful. Yes, I can scan an animal to see if there's a microchip. But no, we won't get instant results. It can take 30 minutes to never for me to find an owner. People wanting me to scan a dog so that they can return it and be a hero are usually disappointed. I'll either take custody of the dog, research the chip and hopefully return the dog myself OR I'll give Good Samaritan the chip number and let him do the investigative work.

Quick primer: A microchip is a radio transmitter and the scanner is a receiver. When the scanner passes over the chip, it powers the chip and ideally an alphanumeric code (not the owner's contact info) is displayed on the scanner's screen.

Microchip codes are registered with one of a dozen chip manufacturers. It takes time to figure out who has which chip. Even then, there can be roadblocks:
  • Sometimes a chip stops transmitting.
  • Some foreign chips aren't recognized by my scanner. I know something is there, but can't read what it is.
  • Sometimes the original chip company has been sold or merged with another company.
  • Sometimes a chip is registered with two different companies, each with different information. (This happens because some companies charge to change info.)
  • Sometimes contact information is inputted incorrectly. I've seen numbers transposed, names misspelled and .net addresses listed as .com.
Also, microchips only work if the information is valid. About 10% of the chipped animals I pick up never make it home because:
  • The chip was never registered.
  • The phone number has been changed or disconnected.
  • Owners moved and left no forwarding address.
  • The registered owner gave the animal away and the registration was never transferred.
So yes, I can try to find the dog's owner, but it takes more time than you'd like. Giving me attitude because you wanted to return Fluffy before church isn't helpful. (And it isn't very Christian-like either.)

Raccoons

BOO!
OK people, repeat after me:

Just because a raccoon is out during the day does not mean it has rabies.

I am soooo tired of saying this. My dispatchers are tired of saying this. And we're all tired of being told "You're supposed to be the experts" in one breath and "You're lying" in the next.

Yes, raccoons are usually nocturnal in the wild. But things are different in the city. They're smart and have adapted to our urban environment. Raccoons have learned that if they stay up a little longer they can get an easy meal (i.e. garbage cans, food left outside for cats, koi ponds, bird feeders). Don't want raccoons in your yard? Don't make things easy for them!

Please, chill out with the rabies thing. We haven't had a rabid raccoon in Small Beach Town during the 12 years I've worked here. That being said, I euthanize sick raccoons every year. Raccoons can carry -- and spread -- both canine and feline strains of distemper. Unfortunately, symptoms can look like rabies to the average freaked out untrained resident. I wrote an informative post about raccoons and distemper last July. The big take-aways are:
  1. Vaccinate your pets and
  2. Don't feed raccoons -- either intentionally or unintentionally.
Lastly, Animal Control will not remove healthy raccoons from personal property. If a resident has nuisance wildlife, they need to contact wildlife specialists. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has LOTS of rules about how and which species can be relocated. Wildlife specialists have the tools, knowledge and licensing to do things correctly -- and they charge accordingly. Yelling at me because Critter Gitter charges $300 and you "pay taxes" doesn't change those facts. (But it does get you on the blog. Jerk.)

Rabies

Small Beach Town is a beautiful place to live. People pay quite a bit of money for houses nestled between the ocean and the wetlands, with everything surrounded by trees. The city is a tree sanctuary. As such, it's teeming with wildlife -- that everybody thinks has rabies.
  • Raccoon? Rabid.
  • Opossum? Rabid.
  • Fox? Rabid.
  • Squirrel? Rabid.
  • Feral cat? Rabid.
  • Loose pit bull? Rabid.
  • Snake in the garage? Rabid.
  • Turtle sunning itself in the park? Rabid.
It gets ridiculous. I try to educate the public, but it seems to fall on deaf ears. More often than not, I'm accused of being a liar or "just a stupid dog catcher." One of my Other Duties As Required is to write public service announcements for the residents (which my boss attaches his name to and gets all the credit . . . but I'm not bitter). Here is the original of an article I wrote on rabies a few years back, before the boss screwed it up. The big take-aways are:
  • All mammals (but only mammals) can carry rabies.
  • The rabies virus is transmitted when the saliva of a rabid animal gets into the bloodstream of the victim (usually from a bite). You can't get rabies from something walking through your yard.
  • Rabies is a weak virus and cannot live outside of a living host for long. You won't get rabies from touching a dead animal in your yard.
  • Even if you are bitten by a rabid animal, you have time wash the wound and get to the doctor. You will not die on the spot. However, you should not wait a few days "Just to see." (Yes, that's happened!)
One final note: When people tell me that they can tell that an animal has rabies just by looking at it, I know they're lying. Depending on how condescending they're being, I may call them on it. I have been known to say:
Well that's impressive. The only definitive way to determine if an animal has rabies is to test tissue from the brain stem and cerebellum. As far as I know, that can't be done with the head still attached.
OK, so maybe I can be a bit bitchy . . .

Confiscation

I'm thankful for this -- even if it does make my job
more difficult at times
I can't confiscate someone's animal just because:
  • The neighbor says something.
  • I suspect something hinky.
  • I don't like the way the animal looks.
  • The owner is a shithead.
  • The house looks empty.
  • The dogs are locked in a car but look OK.
The 4th Amendment prohibits Illegal Search and Seizure from the Government. There must be exigent circumstances (i.e. the dog will die if I don't act right now) for me to violate a person's Constitutional rights. Otherwise, I need a warrant.

Yes, it can be frustrating. We have procedures in place. Unfortunately, they take time. Know that I'm documenting everything and building a case as I go. Accusing me of "being lazy" and "not doing your job" doesn't help. My job would be much easier if people spent more time with a civics book and less time posting on Facebook. Grrr . . .

It's a new year and I'm sure I'll have plenty of new stories to share soon. Until then, -- K


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year

I had to work New Year's Day again this year. One of the perks to my job is that I can bring my dogs to work with me from time to time. Before the day got busy (and it did) I took Trooper down to the beach to watch the sunrise.


I got a new phone last week and thought this would be a good time to play with camera and new photo editing software. What do you think? I'm hoping that 2019 will bring lots of great photo opportunities for me to share with you. TTFN, -- K

Saturday, December 29, 2018

My Cruelty Case

I told you back in June that I just finished a cruelty case that was a bit of a doozy. The drama went on for months, but I'll try to condense it to one page for you.

I wrote a woman a ticket for leaving her dog locked in her while she went to yoga. Again. She was pissed and called my boss to complain. Boss upheld my decision. Next she tried to get the chief of police to pull the ticket. Chief agreed with me and my boss. Then Yoga Bitch the complainant emailed the mayor and all city council members, only giving half truths (of course). The City manager was horrified at how heartless the "dog catcher" was and wrote a scathing email to the Chief. It was forwarded to me. I said a lot of those words I learned in the Navy. Then I took a deep breath and submitted my findings, pictures and the other evidence below (AKA the rest of the story). Surprise! The City officials upheld my decision as well. THEN Yoga Bitch the complainant took the case to court to dispute the ticket. UGH.

The case has been adjudicated and is now public record so I can share it with you. I've changed the names of people and places though . . . you know the drill. Below is the statement I made for court.

------------------------------------------------

On April 3, 2018 at approximately 10:20 AM I received a call from Neighboring Beach ACO, Missy Evans. Officer Evans told me that she had received a report of a dog locked in a car in front of Pet Store and asked me to investigate. Officer Evans is in the courtroom today to testify to that interaction.

See the pink tongue? Position of the shade?
I arrived on scene to discover a long-haired, black and white border collie inside a dark red Lexus SUV. I called it in to Dispatch at 10:29 AM and asked for an officer to come to scene. That officer was Officer Ingram, who is here with me today.

I was approached by Becky Thomas, who stated she was the original complainant. She had witnessed a woman leave the SUV with a yoga mat and go into La Gym, leaving a dog in the vehicle. The sworn affidavit Ms. Thomas provided stated that she saw the woman leave the vehicle at approximately 10:15 AM. Ms. Thomas is in the courtroom today for cross examination.

Multiple attempts were made to find the owner of the car.
  • I asked Dispatch to run the tag so we could get an owner’s name. Unfortunately, our system was down and the tag couldn't be traced right away.
  • I called ACO Evans back and asked if her department could run the tag. She was off duty.
  • Pet Store employees unsuccessfully tried to look through their morning transactions to find the name of the dog's owner.
  • Eventually Officer Ingram was able to run the tag on her in-car computer and obtained the registered owner’s name. Officer Ingram went into La Gym to retrieve the registered owner, Ms. Bea Otch.
Multiple photos showed the car in full sun, windows up
I inspected the car. It was in full sun. [Multiple photos were introduced, including: all four sides of the car showing windows and license plate; several of the dog inside the car taken at different times, one showed dog drooling heavily; and the empty water bowl, with a sealed bottle of water sitting next to it.] The front windows were completely rolled up, and the back windows were down about 4 inches. I looked through the window opening. The dog was lying on the driver’s side floorboard. He was panting and his tongue was bright pink, indicating that the dog was hot. I aimed my Fluke 62 Infrared Thermometer towards the dog through the cracked, rear passenger window. A 10-second scan read 92 degrees at 10:34 AM.

I photographed the dog through the same cracked window. I also photographed a small plastic bowl (approximately 12-16 ounce capacity) that was in the car. The bowl has less than a quarter inch of water covering the bottom of the bowl. The bowl was in the sun, so anything inside was most likely warm.

No water in the bowl (but the bottle is half full)
The dog was in partial sun. All the doors were locked so I could not remove the dog. I tried to call the dog to the rear of the vehicle where there was a little more shade. The dog did not respond to me. At 10:39 AM I repeated the infrared thermometer scan and the temperature had risen to 95 degrees.

At 10:43 AM the dog was panting heavily and beginning to drool, indicating the dog was overheating. By my calculations the dog had been in the vehicle for 30 minutes and I was worried the dog would soon suffer from heat stroke. Signs of heat stroke in dogs include:
  • Increased heart rate
  • Excessive panting
  • Increased salivation
  • Bright red tongue
  • Red or pale gums
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Disorientation
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • and eventually death
By this time the dog was already exhibiting excessive panting, increased drooling and a bright tongue. The dog was not responding to me at all -- no barking, no moving, no change in posture to a high pitched voice. I was concerned that this could be disorientation, weakness or dizziness.

At 10:44 AM Officer Ingram found the dog owner, Ms. Otch. When Ms. Otch arrived I recognized her. I had spoken with her previously about not locking her dog in the car while at the gym. I asked Ms. Otch to remove her dog from the car. She said she didn’t have her keys and returned to the gym.

At 10:51 AM Ms. Otch finally unlocked her car. She opened the passenger side door and stood in the open doorway fiddling with her bag. When she removed the dog at 10:54 AM she stated that the last time we spoke all I told her is that she needed to leave water in the car to be in compliance and pointed to the near empty bowl. She then stated that she wanted me to scan her car with my IR thermometer.

A scan of the floorboard where her dog had been sitting measured 84.4 degrees. This is after having been ventilated for several minutes. I scanned the dashboard and it measured 126 degrees, indicating that the engine was still warm and would continue to heat the vehicle. I wrote both temperature readings on her citation.

Our department uses a Computer Aided Dispatch system. I’d like to introduce the CAD reports from my interactions with Ms. Otch on April 3 as well as the first time we spoke, October 31, 2017. [Several pages were introduced into evidence.]

When I spoke with Ms. Otch five months previously, she stated that she had only had the dog for a few months and the dog had problems with separation anxiety. At that time I gave her a verbal warning along with the usual spiel:
  • Dogs do not sweat. The only way they can cool themselves is through panting.
  • Studies have shown that cracking the windows does not make a difference in cooling the car.
  • Even on a nice 75 degree day, the inside of a car can be over 100 degrees in 20 minutes.
  • The sun moves and shade quickly disappears.
I’ve been giving the same speech for over 12 years. I also remember telling Ms. Otch that there are several doggie daycare facilities at the beaches that can watch her dog while she goes to the gym. Puppy Playhouse is less than a block from La Gym; their addresses are 1075 Beach Road and 985 Beach Road respectively.

On April 3, 2018 Ms. Bea Otch knowingly and intentionally left her dog in a locked vehicle while she went to the gym. It appears that the education and verbal warning from October 31st were not enough to change her behavior. I wrote Ms. Otch an Animal Control citation for animal cruelty. In my professional opinion, her actions fit the parameters of City Ordinance 4-5:
It shall be unlawful to leave an animal unattended in a vehicle in a way that endangers the health or well-being of the animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering or death.
The right tools make all the difference
By ordinance, this citation comes with a $500 fine. When I wrote Ms. Otch the citation I explained my reasoning to her and told her how to contest the citation if she felt it was unwarranted. I gave her a copy of the City ordinances.

At this time I’d like to present the notarized affidavit from Ms. Thomas, my certification from the American Animal Cruelty Investigations School for training on the Fluke 62 Max Plus IR Thermometer, my infrared thermometer’s calibration history and studies of temperatures in enclosed cars from San Francisco State University, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Louisiana State Medical Society. [All introduced into evidence.]

------------------------------------------------

I'd like to say that this case was a slam dunk . . . but it wasn't. The judge allowed the hearing to become a hot mess. BTW, my City does not provide an attorney for me to try these cases, even though the defendants can bring their own legal counsel. Evidence presentation, cross examination, hearsay objections, subpoenas -- all these I have learned OJT and from watching countless hours of Law and Order. Some of the drama courtroom spectators got to see that day included:
  • Bea Otch insisted that all witnesses wait outside the courtroom so they couldn't hear others' testimony (including mine). The judge agreed. Then Ms. Otch yelled at my witnesses for not giving the answers she wanted (AKA all witnesses corroborated my testimony). 
  • Bea Otch subpoenaed Pet Store employee, Frank. The poor guy was sweating like a whore in church. Ms. Otch asked Frank if he thought she was a bad pet owner. When it was my turn for questioning, I reminded the court that the citation was written on fact -- the dog was left in a hot car -- not opinion as to whether Ms. Otch is a good pet owner. I then asked Frank if he remembered the incident (yes), remembered trying to find the owner's name for me (yes) and how long I was trying to get the dog out of the car (30 minutes).
  • Whereas I stayed professional and factual, Bea Otch became overly emotional. She cried! Between sobs she told the judge that a cruelty charge is serious and it would affect her ability to foster dogs. I agreed that animal cruelty is serious and stated that dogs die in hot cars every year in our county. That's why I tried to educate Ms. Otch months previously.
  • Bea Otch did a Public Records request before court (BTW, I did too). Ms. Otch produced emails between the City Manager and several city council members stating that "$500 seemed excessive "and "perhaps the ACO was overzealous." Naturally, Ms. Otch didn't bring the rest of the email thread where they remarked that "the complainant seemed to have left out some pertinent information" and they "didn't realize that fines were dictated by our ordinances." These emails were hearsay and should not have been allowed. I was able to work around them. However, I was pissed that my own city management was used against me in court -- for enforcing their own laws.
  • Bea Otch provided emails from somebody (supposedly) at Fluke stating that the temperature reading of the Fluke 64 model was not exact and should not be admissible in court. I responded that 1) this was hearsay as the person in question wasn't available for cross-examination and 2) I have the Fluke 62 model. I use this model because it IS exact, and reminded the judge that I submitted a copy of the infrared thermometer’s calibration history to the court.
  • Bea Otch provided studies about separation anxiety in dogs. I asked Ms. Otch how leaving a dog alone in a hot car helps treat separation anxiety. I then reminded the court that Puppy Playhouse is less than a block from La Gym.
  • On cross examination I provided the court with a copy of the email Bea Otch sent to the Mayor et al. Ms. Otch agreed that she had sent it. I showed her the pictures of the Lexus SUV and she agreed that it was hers. I then said "You stated that your car was parked in the shade. Will you please show me where the shade is in this picture?" Ms. Otch complained to the judge that I was bullying her!

The trial went on twice as long as necessary. Entirely too much hearsay was allowed. Then the judge said she would "take the case under advisement" and mail us her findings. This bullshit phrase is often code for "This is ugly and I'm too chicken to make a ruling to your face." I usually hear it when the defendant is a lawyer and the judge knows I'm right, but is going to rule against me anyway. It took over a month to receive the ruling, but the outcome was good. The citation was upheld. Ms. Otch was ordered to pay the $500 fine, a $5 surcharge and all court costs.

Take that, Bea Otch. And you too, Self-Righteous City Council Twit. I guess I'm not just an overzealous dog catcher after all. -- K

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Show Dogs

WARNING: Talking about Hollywood usually turns into a rant. How can an industry with so many resources get things so incredibly wrong? And why do we continue to support garbage?

I saw Show Dogs available at Redbox and was curious. There was a lot of controversy tied to the movie when it came out.

The AKC released a statement stating that:
The movie is not an accurate depiction of our sport or its participants . . . Additionally, the movie and its website improperly and inaccurately messages to audiences that the breeds depicted in the movie can be easily found in local animal shelters as a push to encourage adoption.
Too bad. This would have been a great opportunity to discuss things like purposeful breeding, breed standards and responsible breeders versus backyard breeders.

At the same time, parent groups were claiming that multiple scenes from the movie were grooming children for sexual abuse. What?! Complaints were over scenes that comically depicted the physical inspection of a male dog. (The scenes have since been deleted. Click here to see them for yourself.) Says USA Today:

Although this is standard at a dog show, parents' problem was with the way Max was told to deal with the uncomfortable handling.

After reading this I had to see the movie. Was it really as bad as critics claimed? I watched this movie with pen an paper in hand so I could share the good stuff (bad stuff?) with you.

The Plot: Max, a Rottweiler working for the NYPD, teams up with FBI Agent Nichols to stop an animal smuggling operation. To do so, Max goes undercover as a show dog in Las Vegas. Snide and condescending remarks are made about dog shows and all who participate in them. In the end, Max gains a new respect for show dogs. Think Miss Congeniality meets Air Bud.

Within the first four minutes I notice two things about the Rottweiler that ruin the story right from the start:
  1. The dog is neutered. Show dogs must be intact. The entire purpose of dogs shows is to judge breeding stock. To put it simply, a dog without testicles cannot breed. (FYI: This is the reason for the physical exam critics were complaining about.)
  2. The dog has a tail. In fact, all the Rottweilers have tails. This is a disqualification according to the AKC breed standard.
Labrador Retrievers -- the most popular breed of dog
in the U.S. for the past 27 years
The movie touched on owner versus handler (albeit poorly and prejudicially). It also explained that there are "three rounds" (though that's not what they're actually called): Best of Breed → Best of Group → Best in Show. The writers, however, don't seem to understand the seven AKC Groups. When it came to the Best in Show scene, there were two dogs representing the toy group and no dog from the sporting group. Seriously? They couldn't find a retriever or spaniel anywhere? Also, the Herding Group consisted of three Australian shepherds and a border collie -- never mind the other 28 breeds in the group.

Sadly, the scene where the agent dares the smuggler to shoot him was very true. Nichols says "The justice system rarely does anything to people who harm animals; but shoot a Fed and you're gonna get what you deserve." I shared my feelings about this topic in earlier posts.

Honestly, most of what the writers/producers got wrong could have been fixed with an hour of fact checking via Google and YouTube. These include:
  • Ribbon colors -- AKC has specific colors for different placements. (A 30 second Google search leads you to A Beginner's Guide to Dog Shows which would have helped this story immensely!)
  • Ring procedures -- counterclockwise circles, no cat walk
  • There is no agility round in a dog show -- agility and conformation are two separate sports
  • Doberman Pinschers have cropped ears and docked tails in AKC shows as well 
Finally, animal control officers -- my peeps! -- are portrayed as heartless, inept buffoons. Yet again.

F.U. Hollywood!!

Funny aside: There's a weird guy with an ugly made-up designer dog. He approached Agent Nichols and wanted to breed his dog with Max. (I guess weird guy didn't notice that Max was neutered.) When Nichols said no, weird guy and dog both turned around and walked off in a huff -- revealing that the dog was actually an intact male! Be honest, am I the only one who notices dog balls? BTW, the "designer dog" was actually a purebred Xoloitzcuintli.

My honest opinion: The plot is banal and the humor crass. This movie is a 90 minute time suck. However, Show Dogs is no worse than most of the crap that Hollywood is producing for children these days. If you must watch a movie with a talking animal, I suggest Babe. -- K