Bills 413, 414 and 416 need your support! #protectMIanimals

DSC_0015In 2012 as an Animal Services Officer I reached out to the Humane Society of the United States to help me investigate dog fighting here in Kalamazoo.  With limited resources and training, I knew I needed help and the HSUS stepped in and gave myself and my department all the tools we needed to go after the big names on my list.  The HSUS invested $250,000 into investigating and prosecuting dog fighting here in Kalamazoo.  The 2012 string of dog fighting raids was a success because of the help of the experts and generous donors of the HSUS.

Michigan has some of the best laws out there to protect animals from fighting and abuse, but it lacks in the ability to punish people who break these laws.  Time and time again we have watched dog fighters in Kalamazoo, Detroit, and all over the state get away with minor penalties for felony offenses, and as a result they pick up where they left off and get more dogs to continue.

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It’s important to know that for people who are fighting dogs, this blood sport is a business, a way of life, and an addiction.  It isn’t something they’ll give up without a compelling reason.  A 1-30 day sentence to jail is worth it, because the rewards greatly outweigh the risks.

This game of cat and mouse between law enforcement and dog fighters is maddening, because even though law enforcement may “win” in a legal sense, the offender knows that nothing has really changed, and they can continue as soon as probation is over.  In the end, with these cases taking months to years to properly investigate and prosecute, it’s hard to justify the effort.  The only silver lining is knowing that the dogs we were able to rescue would never know that kind of life again.  Getting the dogs out was the only thing that made it worth the time.

dog3After watching Kelvin Thomas receive a slap on the wrist for his 3rd dog fighting offense, we knew something had to change.  Our system was broken and needed fixing.  Public outrage over the sentencing of Kelvin Thomas made it clear that it was time to take this problem to the next level.

Again, we reached out to our friends at the HSUS and we began working to make changes to the current laws.  Senator Margaret O’Brien sponsored these changes that would eventually become bills 413 and 414, and would create mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders.

Yesterday I was able to sit in on a hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee regarding bills 413 and 414.  The bills passed the Senate unanimously and will continue to move through the legislative process.  We hope to have these bills written into the law before the end of 2017 but it could be 2018.

Also introduced was bill 416.  Currently, if a humane agency is in custody of a dog that is known to be bred or trained for fighting purposes, it is illegal to adopt those dogs.  This goes for puppies, dogs that will not fight and breeding females.  In many cases the outcome is euthanasia after spending weeks to months in an animal shelter, as there is no place for these dogs to go unless an out of state agency is able to take them on.  Bill 416 would allow humane agencies the ability to adopt out dogs that can safely re-homed.  This bill would give the animal victims of dog fighting a chance at a better life, and a chance to become a pet.  It is no fault of the dog that they have found themselves in the hands of a dog fighter.  Together, bills 413, 414 and 416 make the necessary changes to our existing laws that allow humane law enforcement officers and court workers to effectively manage dog fighters and their animal victims in the aftermath of an investigation.

These bills can be supported individually or together.  This is the time to make it clear to our legislators that there is public support for these changes.  Please contact your legislator by writing a letter or an email, and express your support for bills 413/414 and 416.

All 3 bills (413, 414 and 416) were passed 4-0 with no objections with a recommendation to be immediately effective.  The video below is the recording of that Judiciary Committee hearing at 3:00PM June 6th, 2017.  413, 414 and 416 can be seen from the beginning of the video until 21:08, and voting begins at 44:40.

https://misenate.viebit.com/vod/?v=bshLUsD22WjV&s=false

Resources:

A Citizens Guide to State Government (2017; Michigan) – This PDF file includes all the information you would need to contact your legislator, and also outlines the process these bills are subject to.

Bill 413 – Details and PDF download of Bill 413

Bill 414 – Details and PDF download of Bill 414

Bill 416 – Details and PDF download of Bill 416

Dogfighting in Kalamazoo:

Marvis Blanks, 2012
HSUS Coverage of 2012 Collaberation
Leonard Turner, 2012
August 2012, Leonard Turner and Kelvin Thomas

Purrr-fect Timing

On #GivingTuesday, our staff was lucky enough to have a small role in a wonderful #PayItForward gesture.  Get all the details in our slideshow below.  Like what you see?  You can make a difference by donating to Operation Fix-It!  The gift of spay/neuter services helps prevent pet homelessness, disease, neglect, abandonment, shelter overcrowding and unwanted litters of puppies and kittens.

Let us know what you think!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Be a courteous dog walker

The ground hasn’t had snow on it in days and the weather is going to be B-E-A-Utiful for at least the next few days!  People and pets will be hitting popular walking trails like the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail, Celery Flats, Kleinstuck Preserve and Asylum Lake.  This is a great time of year to stretch your legs (and your dog’s legs too!) after being cooped up all winter.  It’s also the perfect time to freshen up our “Trail Etiquette” and remember how to be a courteous dog walker.

If you liked it then you shoulda put a leash on it

For so many reasons, leashing your dog is the safest, most courteous thing you can do. Years ago at Asylum Lake I was walking my two large dogs (one Rottweiler and one Lab; both friendly) on leashes.  Lots of fields and forest, and very quiet and peaceful.  Out of nowhere, two large Golden Retrievers came running up the path heading right for me.  I stopped, and I attempted to control both of my dogs who were yanking my arms out of socket to “go play”.  The Retrievers bounded over to my dogs and chaos ensued with leashes and legs being tangled, barking, sniffing, and lots of jumping up and down.  I was drowning in a combined 400+ lbs of fur and so very thankful that my dogs and these stray dogs were getting along.

By the time the owner of the Retrievers came into sight, I was dirty, scraped up, sore, and my dogs were acting like sugar-buzzed youths at a Chuck E Cheese.  It was not a good situation.  I could feel my relief as the offending dog owner ran over to me with her leashes in her hand.  I was prepared for an apology and a story about how her dogs got away from her, and I was equally prepared to get on with my day after that.  She grabbed her dogs by the collars and when she opened her mouth to speak she said “Did your Rottweiler bite my dogs?”  WHAT?  She then continues… “Are your dogs friendly?  You really shouldn’t bring dogs here that aren’t friendly.”  That was my breaking point.

The moral of the story:  LEASH YOUR DOGS!  I love animals, I love dogs, but for the sake of everyone involved please just leash your dogs.

Drop it like it’s hot, but then pick it up and throw it away, k?

Dog poop is gross.  No one likes dog poop, not even if it belongs to their own dog.  If you’re taking your dog for a walk it’s safe to assume there will be at least one stop-and-squat along the way, so bring a bag and a few extras, and be prepared to clean up after your pet.  Poop is not fun to step in, it spreads disease and worms and all other kinds of nasty stuff, and it doesn’t belong in the middle of public trail (or sidewalk, road, path, route, etc…).

Can you say “Misdemeanor”?

Believe it or not, walking with your dog off leash is a misdemeanor offense that will be added to your criminal history.  Law Enforcement and Animal Services Officers can and do issue citations on a regular basis for “Dog At Large” which basically means “Your dog was running loose and you got busted!” It doesn’t matter if your dog has been trained to respond to hand signals, a clicker, or a special language that only you and your dog know.  No matter how well behaved you believe your dog is, a leash is required.

This is a state-wide law in Michigan, so no matter where you go in the Great Lake State, make sure to use your leash if you’re bringing your dog along for the ride.

Here’s a a hilarious video from The Trail Foundation in Austin, TX highlights how irresponsible dog walkers can ruin a great day on the trail for everyone!

Enjoy this amazing weather!

April 8th is National Dog Fighting Awareness Day

Happy National Dog Fighting Awareness Day!

Before her rescue, "Giselle" was chained infront of her dog house, hidden in the woods where no one would hear her barks for help.

Before her rescue, “Giselle” was chained infront of her dog house, hidden in the woods where no one would hear her barks for help.

That didn’t sound right, did it?  It’s sad that there even needs to be a day to bring attention to this horrible crime, and yet everyday, countless animals will suffer because people will use the human-animal bond for profit, even if it means the death or torture of an animal.

Kalamazoo has its own ties to dog fighting.  The Kalamazoo Humane Society was able to assist in the dog fighting raids that occurred right here in Kalamazoo in the late summer of 2012.  Over the course of 3 weeks, three Kalamazoo area homes were targeted and at each home, dogs and evidence of dog fighting were discovered.  Two of the three homes had bloody pits on the premises, which speaks volumes to the frequency these animals were forced to fight each other to please their owners.

This is old news, but don’t think that there aren’t still dog fighters in Greater Kalamazoo who have learned from the 2012 raids and are changing tactics.  Dog fighters live in the city or country; they work/play/worship at the same places you work/play/worship.  Dog fighting is not limited by race, religion or financial stature.  Dog fighting is everywhere and can only be stopped if people are willing to see it and report it.

Giselle now lives the way every dog should; safe, happy and loved.

Giselle now lives the way every dog should; safe, happy and loved.

You will likely never witness a fight in action.  Finding a dog fight in progress is nearly impossible, even for professional response teams.  Despite the slim chance of finding an actual fight, you will see other signs that an animal owner is using dogs for fighting including:

  • Unusually high turn-over – Dogs may come and go frequently.  Some dogs may eventually return and others may not.
  • Equipment above what the “average” owner may keep on hand such as treadmills/slat mills, flirt poles, weighted collars, garage door springs attached to the dog chains, and other items not normally used by the average dog owner.
  • Dogs separated by chains, kennels or fencing – Fighting dogs need to be kept apart
  • Barrel-style dog houses
  • Frequent barking coming from wood areas or far behind houses
"Crosby" was rescued from the home of Leonard Turner of Kalamazoo Township.  He was only about 8 weeks old when he was saved, and never had to know the horrors of the Pit.

“Crosby” was rescued from the home of Leonard Turner of Kalamazoo Township. He was only about 8 weeks old when he was saved, and never had to know the horrors of the Pit.

There are many other signs of dog fighting.  From our experience, many fighting dogs do not look like “pure bred” Pit Bulls.  The large, barrel-chested stocky Pit Bulls are generally show dogs or pets and are not good for fighting.  Leaner Pit Bull mix dogs tend to be what we see more of in this area.  The dogs can be any color but are rarely blue or grey.  Black and white, brindle and buckskin colored dogs were found more often than other colors.  Fighting dogs can be kept indoors or outdoors, in sheds, garages, basements, wooded areas or barns.

The HSUS offers up to a $5,000 reward to anyone who reports dog fighting that results in criminal charges.  One of the witnesses to report dog fighting at the home of Kelvin Thomas on W. KL  Avenue did receive a full $5,000 payout for the tip that led to Thomas’ arrest.

Please keep in mind that not all Pit Bull owners are dog fighters and not all Pit Bulls are aggressive!

If you suspect dog fighting, contact your local Animal Control department.  Kalamazoo County residents should contact Kalamazoo County Animal Services & Enforcement at 269-383-8775.

Dog Fighting can also be reported directly to the HSUS Tipline at 1-877-TIP-HSUS or 1-877-847-4787

Aaron Winters, Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Humane Society, assists in the rescue of fighting dogs in August 2012 in Oshtemo Township, MI alongside Kalamazoo County Animal Services and the HSUS.

Aaron Winters, Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Humane Society, assists in the rescue of fighting dogs in August 2012 in Oshtemo Township, MI alongside Kalamazoo County Animal Services and the HSUS.

Related Media:

Related Dog Fighting Information:

via National Dog Fighting Awareness Day | ASPCA.

‘Speaking a Great Language’ Together

There’s an amazing quote by a 20th century philosopher named Martin Buber: “An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”

Respect, responsibility and compassion are important elements of that message. And the Kalamazoo Humane Society is taking the lead in making sure the message is clearly heard.

We’re very proud of our latest tool to deliver that message: a new video titled “Speaking a Great Language: The Story of the Kalamazoo Humane Society.” You can watch it on YouTube by clicking here. It’s a brief but engaging inside look at the history, advocacy and services we provide to pets and the community at large:

  • We lead in providing low-cost spay and neuter services. Each year KHS performs more than 6,000 procedures through Operation Fix-It, a program that has already surpassed the milestone of 50,000 surgeries. This drives down the population of unwanted animals, meaning fewer animals sent to shelters or destroyed.
  • We feed 500 pets every day through our emergency food bank. This sustains our animal friends and helps pet owners who are in financial need.
  • We partner with the YWCA’s domestic assault program to house animals from troubled homes, removing a barrier to people who struggle to leave an abusive situation.
  • We offer educational resources to help people learn how to care for animals appropriately and humanely.

I hope you enjoy our video. All of us at KHS are grateful for the generous supporters and committed volunteers who help us make a positive impact on this great community. By sharing this video and supporting our cause, you join in speaking the great language of respect, responsibility and compassion for our animals.

KHS Blog Authors

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