Shocking Cruelty Against a Dog Called Puppy Doe Brings Calls for Change

Editor’s note: This post contains material that will almost certainly be upsetting. Proceed with caution.

Lisa Miels, one of the many Massachusetts residents shattered by the case of a dog called Puppy Doe, says the story hasn’t left her mind since she heard about it.

“My dog, Sunny, sleeps on my soft couch. He eats too many treats. He loves the park, tennis balls, and sniffing trash,” Miels says, with a catch to her voice. “This dog, she knew none of that.”

Miels is one of thousands of citizens outraged by the horrific story of Puppy Doe, a young Pit Bull found by a passerby in a Quincy, Massachusetts, park on Aug. 31. To say the dog was abused is an understatement.

The severely underweight dog was taken to the Animal Rescue League of Boston, which posted this on website:

“Puppy Doe was probably one to two years old. In addition to being starved and beaten on many occasions, causing fractures to the head and body, she appears to have undergone some kind of crude cutting to create a serpent-like split to her tongue. The dog had also been stabbed in the eye in the days prior to being found in Quincy.”

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Kiya, also known as “Puppy Doe”

Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore of the ARL Boston called this the worst case of animal abuse she has ever seen, and shared this statement to CNN:

“She was a rack of beaten bones,” Smith-Blackmore said. “Her joints were pulled apart like Medieval times. She was beaten, stabbed, burned over weeks to months and maybe her whole life. And could not walk. When I saw how vulnerable she was, and I understood immediately the duration of her suffering, my heart collapsed.”

The little dog’s injuries were so overwhelming the only humane thing to do was show her some brief kindness before euthanizing her.

Dangerous individual remains at large

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This case has remained in the spotlight in Massachusetts, where ARL Boston and the Quincy Police Department are adamant about finding the culprit. They’re concerned that it is unlikely a one-time incident; such an individual is likely to target other animals -- or people -– now or in the future.

A break in the case came when the dog’s original ownership was traced to Connecticut. The unnamed owner provided photos of the dog, originally called Kiya, in a happier life. Devastated to have learned of the dog’s fate, the owner reported that she was forced to rehome happy, friendly Kiya at the insistence of her landlord. Authorities suspect the dog was then shuffled among hands online, before landing with her torturer.

No arrests have been made in the case, and a sizable reward has been offered.

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Puppy Doe

Enormous public outcry

Unable to fathom who or why anyone would do this to a defenseless animal, a very shaken public has pulled together in support of Puppy Doe. A vigil held in Quincy drew more than 250 supporters, both human and canine, and received widespread media attention. Another vigil is planned in New York City on October 26, which is National Pit Bull Awareness Day. A Facebook page dedicated to justice for the dog currently has more than 50,000 likes.

A petition has been posted on, imploring Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist, to put an end to the free exchange of pets allowed on the site.

A call to end the free exchange of animals

Online sites, posting ads for free cats or dogs, are the perfect feeding grounds for animal abusers looking to obtain their next victim. While the petition to Craigslist is one step, it’s not a complete solution. The bigger issue is to raise public awareness on how to safely rehome an animal.

“We are wholly philosophically opposed to using the Internet to give pets away for free,” says Rob Halpin, director of public relations at MSPCA Angell in Boston, adding that Craigslist is just one of many sites posting such ads.

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The turnout at a Sept. 28 vigil was overwhelming.

Halpin urges owners facing a rehoming issue to turn to trained professionals at shelters and rescues. These individuals will explore the pet’s medical and behavioral history, and do extensive background checking, to ensure a lasting, safe match.

“Pet owners lack the skills and resources necessary to properly vet would-be adopters. The result could be the worst case scenario that is the Puppy Doe case,” he says.

A cry for stiffer penalties

In the wake of the case, legislation for Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety (PAWS) was filed in early October. Proposing to step up animal cruelty penalties in Massachusetts, it calls for:

  • Quadrupling fines for first offenders, to a total of $ 10,000
  • Giving repeat offenders a 10 year prison sentence and $ 20,000 fines
  • Imposing a fine of $ 2,000 and/or jail time to animal-involved hit-and-run drivers

The bill would also establish an anonymous animal abuse hotline and create a statewide registry of convicted animal abusers.

PAWs was authored by senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, with fellow GOP Senators Robert Hedlund and Richard Ross, and Democratic state Rep. Linda Dean Campbell.

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The vigil was also a call to action.

Change for other homeless animals

The magnitude of this case has left many individuals eager to do something. The initial public response was so intense that the Quincy Police Department called for restraint, saying that online vigilantes and false implications on the Internet were slowing police progress.

The best response may be to look toward helping other homeless animals.

“Our fervent hope is that those affected by this can channel their outrage into positive momentum for all animals, so that Puppy Doe will not have died in vain,” says Halpin, who suggests the following steps:

  • Lobby state and local officials for stiffer animal cruelty penalties in your area. “For example, animal cruelty in Massachusetts is a felony crime punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $ 2,500 fine. No one ever gets that,” Halpin reports.
  • Adopt a homeless dog. “Tell friends, neighbors and relatives about the positive role that a dog plays in your life and encourage them to rescue a dog as well.”
  • Help the organizations that care for homeless animals. “(Rescues and shelters) are always in need of kindhearted volunteers who will walk dogs, clean cat boxes or just spend time with animals.”
  • Donate what you can. “Food, blankets, toys and pet supplies are always needed. And money helps animal rescue organizations do what they do,” he says.

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Alyssa Ellman and Penelope were among people and dogs attending the Sept. 28 vigil.

Thinking about what this small, defenseless dog was forced to endure is beyond heartbreaking. While it was too late to save Puppy Doe when she was found that August morning, both professionals and the public refuse to allow her suffering to have been for naught. The case has been a catalyst for change, raising awareness and sparking changes to safeguard future animals from abuse.

Read more about crimes against dogs:

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What Can Mayor Bloomberg Teach You About Dog Training?

Bloomberg-Logo-650x400 (This is not a political blog. Please bear with me for a few paragraphs. It will get to dog training, I promise. Also please note I am drawing parallells not commenting on policy. This is a dog training blog, not a blog about politics, (human) education, or race relations. Save it for Facebook!)

The news in New York City has been dominated the past few weeks with the mayoral race. (Now that the primaries are over, we’ve got a brief respite, but it’s sure to heat up again in October.) It’s been an entertaining season, partially because more than one of the candidates are more sideshow than serious politician and partly because of the spectacle of candidates trying to figure out how to walk the line on Bloomberg policies that seem both effective and morally and/or ethically compromised.

Like all New York City Mayors, Michael Bloomberg has been a polarizing figure. I have found some of the controversies particularly interesting because he comes from the same corporate and technological culture I do, and this often seems to drive his policy decisions.

On Wall Street (as well as technology companies like Google and Apple) data is king. Business decisions are made based on measurable results. This is often an effective strategy, especially when you are in the business of selling data (which is how Bloomberg became a millionaire) or selling widgets. What can be more effective than measuring results and then adjusting tactics based on them?

But this very practice is what has gotten Bloomberg in trouble more than once. The two examples that come immediately to mind are his school testing policies and the New York Police Department’s infamous “stop and frisk” practices, which Bloomberg has staunchly defended.

In the case of school testing Bloomberg is following the national trend of administering copious amount of standardized tests in order to measure school results. From a data-driven perspective this makes perfect sense. However educators and parents insist that is leads to “teaching to the test” and unnecessary stress for the children.

In the case of “stop and frisk” data analysis led to Ray Kelly’s ill-advised statement about how “African-Americans are being under-stopped.” Here again numbers and measurable results, examined in a vacuum, led to Kelly’s assertion. The broader picture however, might lead some to disagree. (The more I read Kelly’s and Bloomberg’s defense of stop and frisk, the more I think of the engineer and the balloon.)

So what does all this have to do with dog training?

In the ABCs I spend a lot of digital ink laying out a formula for problem solving. It’s an approach to solving behavior problems that anyone from Bloomberg’s world would embrace. And we can learn a few things from Bloomberg’s successes and failures that apply to using the ABCs too.

Before you can solve a problem you need to define it. This may seem obvious, but it’s not.

What do you think is the problem with education? Basic skills, dropout rates, or college admissions? Which one you pick will have a tremendous impact on your approach.

What do you think is the underlying cause of crime? Poverty? Recidivism? Illegal weapons? Drug use? Again, how you define the problem will have a tremendous impact on your solutions.

In the animal behavior training world the obstacle to defining the problem is often one of using labels and classifications over behaviors. Is “my dog is jealous” a problem? How about “my dog is dominant” or even “my dog is fearful?” Is your definition of “fearful” the same as mine? Roger Abrantes has written about the issues behind defining what dominance really is and for many, including myself, he highlights a conflict that has made the word at least temporarily useless.

Properly defining problems is critical to the solving it because if you can’t measure it you can’t say you solved it. Can you measure dominance? Or jealousy? Or fear? No, you can’t. You can measure barking, lunging, growling, pulling on leash, and fleeing. These things might be part of a “package” we call jealousy, dominance, or fearfulness, but we need to agree on the actual measurable actions first and chances if we do that well the labels are unnecessary.

With Bloomberg & Co. the case could be made that part of their problem is a lack of agreement on the defining the issues and the desired results. “Better schools” is something everyone can agree on…until it’s time to agree on what a better school actually is and then take steps to achieve it.

Similarly “less crime” wins elections, but if your tactics land you in trouble with the public, press, and even the courts, than there is an obvious disconnect between you and the people. The NYPD and the City Administration are measuring a result that does not seem important enough to others given what (they claim) it took to get that result.

I wrote earlier about defining what you want instead of what you don’t want. A critical part of that definition is making sure that what you want is specific and measurable. I’ll be writing more about this in the next few weeks.

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What Can Mayor Bloomberg Teach You About Dog Training? is a post written by . You can see the actual post at Dog Training in Bergen County New Jersey

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Is Your Toolbox Balanced?

"But I like to keep a balanced toolbox!"

I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard or read that one. It’s undoubtedly a big number. It’s usually the end or near the end of a trainer discussion on tools or techniques, and is intended to indicate that while a trainer (at least claims) to be primarily using tools and techniques that employ positive reinforcement, they also still like to use tools and techniques that rely on positive punishment/negative reinforcement. And they make this claim to open-mindedness with a brilliant rhetorical flourish! Or at least it probably seemed brilliant the first time it was used. I’m guessing around 1986.

But hey, what’s more open than reserving the right to use a leash pop or some electrical current when the going gets tough?

But really, we shouldn’t find this shocking (heh) when we still treat each other like this:

If pointless and gratuitous physical coercion to a kid is routine family TV (he really needed to sit in that chair NOW!) than how much sympathy do you think we can get for any non-human animal?

The fact is that human society is chock full of coercion and retribution. Last week I didn’t want to veer too far off into politics and I don’t want to go off on a philosophical tangent here, but consider how we treat each other. Coercion, whether it’s physical (most often with children) or not, is a big part of our society. Rewards are for frequent customers, credit cards, and bounty hunters. So it’s quite natural that our handling of non-human animals is even worse.

I’m currently enrolled in Dr. Susan Friedman’s Living and Learning with Animals course and just two weeks in I can see how this course is going to have a tremendous impact on how I work with both humans and dogs, and with how I solve problems. From the course description:

The philosophy of behavior underlying this course is that captive and companion animals, like all learners, must have power to operate effectively on their environment, in order to live behaviorally healthy lives.

Having the science of Applied Behavior Analysis carefully explained and also seeing it applied to a variety of different species has made it clear: it works.

But let’s look at more visceral example of how much someone can get done with a "closed toolbox:"

The elephant in this video is hanging out at the edge of the pen, happily responding to cues to move into different positions. (The electronic "beep" seems to be an event marker similar to a clicker.) If you watch the whole video you’ll see him lift his leg, allow the trainer to examine his ears, and respond to a variety of different cues. These are behaviors they use to care for the elephant with some fun stuff mixed in. Let’s review the zoo’s options for handling elephants.

  1. Restrain the elephant and force him to submit to handling. This is often where we end up with our children and our pets. Of course it’s easier to physically restrain a child or a dog than it is an elephant. (In Asia people do restrain elephants and treat them quite badly. They generally start out when the elephant is very small.)
  2. Sedate the elephant. This is risky, for both the elephant and the vet staff. It’s also of limited usefulness, since moving a sedated elephant is still a, pun intended, big problem. An awake cooperative elephant is a lot easier to work with.
  3. Don’t provide care for the elephant that requires cooperation. There are undoubtedly zoos that still choose this option.
  4. Do what we see here – convince the elephant that working with the trainer is a good thing.

Some would say that comparing this activity to working with a dog isn’t fair. The elephant is in a pen with steel columns protecting the trainer! I would tend to agree. Many people restrain their dogs so they can’t flee. This elephant has a choice the entire time – he could walk away from the bars any time he wants. But he stays. The trainer gave him a reason to.

This dog doesn’t have that choice:

I see two collars and some kind of head harness. And in case you missed the irony: one of the first steps in "teaching" a dog named a "Retriever" to "retrieve" is by forcing his mouth open by pinching the ear. Poke around Youtube some more and you’ll see video of a "well-respected" trainer needing to use a shock collar for the same procedure.

Yes, we need to shock dogs to get them to hold things in their mouth. I’m sure they’d say it’s complicated and we wouldn’t understand since we’re not professionals.

How did we get here? Where does the idea that when a dog (or child, or employee, etc.) doesn’t behave the way we want that meeting it with coercion and punishment (in the colloquial sense) isn’t just correct but virtuous?

Dr. Friedman refers to this phenomenon as "cultural fog.", based on a oft-cited quote from Gunnar Myrdal. The idea that rewards are "bribes" and the dogs and people should already be motivated to do the "right thing" as we define it is embedded in our culture. Dogs should work for praise. An employee’s reward for good work is more responsibility — which is corporate-speak for more work. And of course any popular artist seen taking money is a "sell-out."

So it’s not surprising that a "balanced toolbox" is seen not just as a necessity but as a badge of honor.

But I don’t accept that. If someone can convince a 15,000 pound elephant to cooperate with a physical examination without restraint or sedation, than there really is no excuse for needing coercion to get a dog to walk nicely on leash….let alone retrieve a bird.

I’ll take the smaller toolbox. Every time.

Is Your Toolbox Balanced? is a post written by . You can see the actual post at Dog Training in Bergen County New Jersey

Dog Spelled Forward Website and Blog

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A DOG'S LIFE: Cooler weather signals fleas to get moving

A DOG'S LIFE: Cooler weather signals fleas to get moving
I've mentioned before that often in homes with two dogs, one will have fleas and the other will not. We have noticed this in our own home – there are several dogs that we can examine to find out if we have any fleas, because they are the “tasty” ones
Read more on Clarksville Leaf Chronicle

Be consistent, diligent in your flea control protocol
on the premises. All flea infestations originate from a flea-infested environment. It may seem like the flea product you are using doesn't work immediately because it takes time to get rid of the immature stages of fleas that are living in your carpet
Read more on Adobe Press

San Diego lacks off-season for fleas, ticks
Autumn is a good time to remember that fleas, ticks and mosquitoes thrive in San Diego County and do not take time off in the fall or winter. The diseases they carry can be challenging to diagnose and treat; many can be fatal, in people and our pets.
Read more on U-T San Diego

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great blog .. interesting post .. thank you

great blog .. interesting post .. thank you

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Apr 23, Tapioca in Dog Food | Best Dog Food Guide

Tapioca in dog food as novel starch source to use in elimination diets, to eliminate allergy symptoms, and no grain diets.
Dog Food Blog | Best Dog Food Guide

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Meet Ricky who is 6 years old.  I met him at the Fete de la Branda in Gorbio.  In fact, you can see the beautiful old copper still behind him in which the ‘branda’ (eau de vie or marc) is distilled. 

He’s a mixed breed and adorable.


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Do you think I can live with a pet allergy without medication?

Question by periwinkle135: Do you think I can live with a pet allergy without medication?
I think I might be allergic to my daughter’s new puppy. My skin itches in random places at random times or if I hold her, then my arm and wrist itch, or if she plays at my feet and jumps on my legs, then my legs and feet itch, or if I snuggle her under my chin, then my chin itches. I can’t bear the thought of not handling her, she’s too cute. I also can’t bear the thought of giving her away ’cause we’ve all fallen in love with her. She’s already a big part of the family. I do not take medications on a daily basis and don’t want to start. I only take the occasional headache medicine. I used to be allergic to cats when I was younger and I got over that ’cause now I have three indoor-only cats. I wonder if it’s possible that I might just get over this puppy allergy, too. Any ideas?

Best answer:

Answer by Stephanie Loves Sammy
its possible that it could go away but if u r allergic to the dog then u will be miserable unless u take meds. it is just so much easier. which would u rather do. not take the meds and be miserable and sick feeling or take them and feel great. my mom was like this too. she was allergic to our cats and she went and got allergy meds and she is fine now. its not that hard to remember. its not going to interfere with ur daily life. just take it once u wake up and u wont have to deal with it til the next day. it really is worth it

Add your own answer in the comments!

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If you are renewing your membership with PetsitUSA, then you can receive a $ 50 rebate on a banner ad for your city page.  There is also a spot available for a site-wide banner ad at a reduced cost!  Discounts will apply while there is space available!

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Evolution of the Domestic Dog Redux

I’ve written about the evolution of the domestic dog before. What makes this such a great time to be a dog science geek is that in the few years since I wrote that post there’s been a lot of new research and new thought on the topic.

This is one of those subjects that is probably never going to be completely settled, at least not without time travel — and even then we would need a lot of luck. Chances are there was more than one "domestication event" and each one had likely slightly different factors contributing to its genesis.

This infographic, from The Uncommon Dog explains domestication with a bit of a hybrid view between the "adoption" theory that was very popular until relatively recently, and the self-domestication theory that I wrote about before (and still find more believable than adoption.) It’s an interesting take on the origins of the domestic dog.

What I really enjoyed about this graphic is the additional information about how dogs may have helped us survive. For more on that and on how we evolved together, start here and here.

Here’s the graphic. Enjoy! (Click for the full size version on the orginal site.)


Evolution of the Domestic Dog Redux is a post written by . You can see the actual post at Dog Training in Bergen County New Jersey

Dog Spelled Forward Website and Blog

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