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The Ruff Report: A recap of news about dogs (Sept. 14 to 20, 2008)

VOLUME 1, PAGE 5
Week of Sept. 14 TO 20, 2008


Lawsuit seeks to change legal status of pets

A legal battle in Georgia could elevate the status of pets under the law and reshape veterinary care.


In a lawsuit filed in Fulton County Superior Court, Michael and Kathryn Sutton of Ellijay are charging a veterinary surgeon with malpractice for her treatment of the Suttons’ 13-year-old miniature Schnauzer, Marshall, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The Suttons say poor treatment resulted in the dog's death, and they are seeking at least $75,000 in damages for their loss.


"Money is not the object here," Kathryn Sutton told the newspaper. "I don’t want someone else to have to go through what we did. I still cry over this. I probably lost 20 pounds. I didn’t eat or sleep well for three or four months."


The Suttons say Marshall died an agonizing, painful death with his abdomen inflamed from peritonitis.


Julie Duval, who works for Sandy Springs-based Georgia Veterinary Specialists, says she did nothing wrong. "I treated that dog like I would my own," she said. "I’m comfortable with that." Duval said a state board has reviewed the Suttons’ complaint and found no reason to sanction her. She described the suit as without merit.


Most states, including Georgia, consider pets personal property, such as a furniture, and the only damages owners can seek to recover is the replacement value or purchase price.


But some pet advocates and their lawyers say companion animals should be treated as humans because they have the ability to experience suffering and often are valued family members.


The American Veterinary Medical Association says elevating the status of animals will result in malpractice lawsuits and will drive up prices for insurance and care for animals. Most veterinarians pay only about $500 a year for malpractice insurance because suits are so unusual, the veterinary association said.


"We just don’t think filing a bunch of lawsuits helps," said Adrian Hochstadt, a lobbyist for the association.


In 2004, an Orange County, Calif., jury recognized the "special value" of a Labrador retriever and awarded the owner $39,000 in a malpractice suit. Courts also have accepted trusts for the care of pets and have awarded custody of animals after a divorce.


Study: Dogs and cats can live happily ever after

The way to get pets to stop fighting like cats and dogs is all about timing, a study concludes.


The report, done by Tel Aviv University and recently published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, recommends that a family adopt a kitten first and then introduce a dog when both are still young - less than 6 months old for kittens and 1 year for dogs. The probability is high the pets will get along, the research found.


"This is the first time anyone has done scientific research on pets living in the same home," says Professor Joseph Terkel of the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University. "It's especially relevant to the one-third of Americans who own a pet and are thinking about adopting a second one of the opposite species."


The cats and dogs evolve beyond their own instincts, learn to talk each other's language and read each other's body language, Terkel said. "It was a surprise that cats can learn how to talk 'dog' and vice-versa," he said.
The researchers interviewed almost 200 pet owners who own both a cat and a dog, studied videotapes and analyzed the animals' behavior. Most of the pets co-existed well, but in some instances - 10 percent - they did get into spats and fights.

Dog's phone call saves Arizona owner's life

Arizona man has a new understanding of the meaning of the phrase "man's best friend."

Joe Stalnaker of Scottsdale was having a seizure when his assistance dog Buddy, a German shepherd, telephoned 911 for help, saving Stalnaker's life, The Associated Press reports.
A dispatcher repeatedly asked if the caller needed help as Buddy whimpered and barked.


Police went to the home and found Stalnaker, Scottsdale police Sgt. Mark Clark said. Stalnaker spent two days in a hospital and recovered from the seizure."It's pretty incredible," Clark said.

"Even the veteran dispatchers - they haven't heard of anything like this."Stalnaker adopted Buddy at the age of 8 weeks from Michigan-based Paws with a Cause, which trains assistance dogs, Clark said.

Buddy was trained to get the phone if Stalnaker began to have seizure symptoms. Stalnaker's seizures are from a head injury he suffered about 10 years ago during a military training exercise. Buddy, now 18 months old, is able press programmed buttons until a 911 operator is on the line, Clark said.

Helping Indiana students is child's play for pooch

Elementary school students in Indiana have a special classroom aide who is willing to listen to them unconditionally.


Martha, a 3-year-old white-and-tan Labrador retriever, is a calming influence for first-graders at Bunker Hill Elementary in Franklin Township, where students enjoying talking and reading to their four-legged friend, the Indianapolis Star reports.


"Children who have issues and may be a little reluctant to talk with a counselor, they'll more freely talk with Martha," teacher Gail Sturm, Martha's primary caregiver, told the newspaper.


Martha, part of the Indiana Canine Assistant Network, is one of five dogs in the organization working with students in Franklin Township Schools. Acton Elementary, Arlington Elementary, Kitley Intermediate and Thompson Crossing Elementary also have dogs.


The dogs are used as learning tools, Sturm explained. Often, students will read a problem out loud to Martha, which is enough to spark the learning process.


Virginia dog defies death with love and care

Tini Harvey is lucky to be alive - literally.


The 5-year-old miniature poodle, owned by Sandra and Wes Harvey of Norfolk, Virginia, was dead after she slipped trying to jump onto a couch and hit her head on a coffee table.

"I mean, the dog was dead," Wes Harvey told The Virginian-Pilot. "I saw a lot of head trauma when I was in Vietnam in 1968," the Vietnam War veteran said. "When I worked with those guys, first they had to get a heartbeat."

So Harvey, who uses oxygen for a lung condition, figured he could try the same battlefield treatment with Tina. "I figured if we could get the blood moving around, she would keep her functions," he said.

Harvey told his wife, Sandy, to hold the oxygen tube to the poodle's nose while he did chest compressions. After about a minute, he listened with his stethoscope and picked up a faint thump. If they stopped, it stopped, so they kept going.

After 20 minutes, Tini's eyelids flickered, toes jerked and legs twitched, and after 45 minutes, she rolled over and tried to sit up.

The Harveys then took Tini to an animal hospital where she was given medicine to reduce brain swelling.

Tini's recovery has been slow, but the Harveys have helped her every moment. They have slept with Tini in between them, used an eyedropper to squirt water in Tini's mouth and fed her a tablespoon of food at a time. For a month, they carried her everywhere.

And now, four months later, Tini's can bark and chew again and enjoys sitting in Sandy's lap thanks to her dedicated owners.

Wisconsin group advocates adopting shelter pets

A group that advocates adopting pets from animal shelters rather than pet stores has formed in Wisconsin.


The Milwaukee Pet Store Protest Group recently held a small protest outside a Petland store in Mount Pleasant to encourage people to adopt shelter pets, the Milwaukee Journal Times reports.


"We’re here to educate the general public in the hopes that they will choose not to support this horrible industry," said Nancy Brandt, 61, of Muskego, a member of the group. "I don’t have anything against pet stores selling pet food and things like that, but these animals suffer terribly."


Gabriel Kujawski, general manager of the Mount Pleasant Petland store, said his store was unfairly being lumped together with other stores, many of which get their dogs from what are considered puppy mills."I do agree that puppy mills are wrong, and they do need to be gotten rid of," Kujawski said. "But all of our breeders that we get our puppies from are USDA-certified."


Parvo virus shuts North Dakota pet store


A North Dakota pet store had to temporarily shut because of an infectious disease that could be fatal to puppies and older dogs.


The disease, known as parvo, has killed one of the 22 puppies at Pets by Nancy in Grand Forks, but the others appear to be healthy, the Grand Forks Herald reports. The dogs will have to be monitored because signs of the infection can take up to 21 days to appear, said Nancy Beneda, the store's owner.


Beneda said she vaccinated the puppies, but her veterinarian says the vaccines are sometimes slow to take effect in puppies.


The parvovirus can spread by bodily fluids, from dog poop to saliva, so a person handling an infected puppy or even walking on carpet where the puppy has been could unknowingly bring it home to his own dog.


Parvovirus is an uncommon disease among dogs because parvo vaccines are part of a standard package of vaccines that dogs get, said Carol Hagen, a veterinarian at Petcetera in Grand Forks. Petcetera has had three cases this year, she said, and that is unusual.


No cases of parvo have occurred in area pet stores for years, said Richard Klockmann, an environmental health specialist at Grand Forks Public Health.


Good deed in Conn. is a breath of fresh air

For Fran Fellows, the animal control officer in North Madison, Connecticut, reuniting a lost dog with its owner is all part of the job.


But for a grateful out-of-town dog owner, the task was an action that deserved to be rewarded, The Source of Connecticut reports.


The owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent the police department's animal control unit a donation and asked that the money be used for the welfare of animals, Fellows said.
The police department used to the money to buy two sets of pet rescue oxygen masks and donated them to the town’s fire companies, where they will be placed on rescue trucks.


"We wanted to do something that could benefit all animals in town, something lasting and meaningful," said Christie Hodge, administrative assistant to the police chief.


Illinois service dog was also a special companion

For Lorraine Spaeth of Illinois, Kesly was more than a work dog - she was a companion.


The two spent the past 10 years on the Kankakee county sheriff's department's canine search team helping to bring closure to families with missing loved ones, the Daily Journal of Kankakee reports.


"She was great on the job, but she was just as good as a companion," Spaeth told the newspaper. "She had cancer four years ago, and we got her through that. She didn't work much toward the end. She was more of my lap dog then."


The 13-year-old German shepherd, who peacefully passed away recently, is being remembered as an honored public servant.


Kelsey, whose specialty was locating the lifeless bodies that stymied police investigations, was responsible for the discovery of 10 bodies in the Kankakee area. She also made three "live finds" in her career.


"We were part of a search team and that team goes on," said Spaeth, who will begin training her fourth dog. "Those volunteers are still out there. Still nonprofit. Still ready to serve."


Montana humane society to build new shelter

A Montana humane society is trying to raise $5 million to build a new pet shelter that will accommodate 90 dogs and 176 cats.


The Lewis and Clark Humane Society plans to build the shelter to serve the greater Helena area. It also will have space for spay and neuter clinics, pet training sessions and workshops on responsible pet ownership, the Queen City News reports.


"Our expanded facility will enable the Lewis and Clark Humane Society to make an evolutionary transition from an intervention facility to a prevention facility," society official Dan Anderson told the newspaper. "We will be adding educational and training components to increase our animal’s success of being placed for adoption through training and other means."


Society officials say the existing shelter, originally built in the 1960s, can no longer meet the needs of the area’s rapidly growing human and pet population.

The City of Helena will lease a 10-acre site to the society for $10 a year, and the society’s board has hired one of the top animal shelter architectural firms, Daggett and Griggs, to design the new 17,800-square-foot shelter to fit the property.


Pets displaced by Texas hurricane get help


The Humane Society of Southeast Texas in Beaumont is getting at 16 tons of supplies from PetSmart Charities to help animals displaced by Hurricane Ike.


The supplies include pet food, crates, beds, bowls, litter and litter pans, and other necessary animal-care items, according to PetSmart Charity's Web site. Supplies for volunteers caring for the displaced pets include a generator, fans, tents, a battery charger and lights.


PetSmart Charities established its emergency relief program in 2007 to provide assistance following disasters. Recently, it sent supplies to Louisiana to help pets displaced by Hurricane Gustav.


To make a donation to the PetSmart Charities relief program, visit www.petsmartcharities.org or call 1-800-423-PETS.


Houston SPCA busy following hurricane


In the days following Hurricane Ike, the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been busy helping needy pets.


Houston SPCA volunteers have set up a foster home program, a telephone hot line and have taken in displaced pets, according to the organization's Web site.

On the day following the hurricane, the Houston SPCA recovered 77 dogs, 65 cats, one rabbit, some parakeets and a pelican along with other wildlife from the damaged Galveston County Animal Shelter in Texas City.

The Houston SPCA has also established a hot line to field lost and found reports, rescue reports and to offer animal-related information. The number is 713-435-2990 and the phone is staffed from 10 am to 6 pm daily. Messages left after hours are returned the next morning.

A foster home program also has been set up. Families are being asked to foster a Galveston pet for 10 days. If the displaced animal is not reclaimed by its original owner after 10 days, the foster parent has the option to adopt the animal or return it to the shelter for placement.

For more information about the foster home program or to make a donation to the Houston SPCA, visit www.houstonspca.org or call 713-869-7722.

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