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Archive for November, 2009

How to Make Wise Choices About Charitable Donations

November 25th, 2009 No comments

Donating to a Shelter?  Make Sure Your Money Goes to the Dogs

Donating to a Shelter? Make Sure Your Money Goes to the Dogs

Make Sure Your Charitable Donation Really Helps Those in Need

During the holiday season, many people feel moved to open their hearts and wallets to try and help those who are less fortunate.  There are many wonderful charitable organizations that do a lot of good work with the monetary donations people provide.

There are other charitable organizations that end up spending most of the money they receive on fund-raising and other expenses.  Not that there is anything inherently wrong with administrative spending and fund-raising.  After all, there are expenses involved in running a charity, and fund-raising plays an important role in helping many charities stay alive.

BBB Says at Least 65% Should go to Charitable Activities

But how much is too much for a charity to spend on telemarketers and other fund-raising efforts?  The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability suggests that charitable organizations should spend at least 65% of their total expenses on program activities (the actual “charity” part of the equation), and no more than 35% of the money you donate on fund-raising.

Want to Know Where Your Money is Going When You Donate to Charity?

If you want to know how your donations of money are being used by a charity, there are a couple of easy ways to find out.  Charities that meet all of the BBB’s Standards for Charity Accountability can receive accreditation through the BBB.  The website provides a National Charity Report Index that makes it easy to search for information about charities that are BBB accredited.

Charities are not legally required to submit information and seek accreditation through the BBB, but many reputable charities do so.  If a charity has received BBB accreditation, you can be sure that most of the money you donate to the charity will be going to the actual work of the charity.

Charity Navigator is an independent charity evaluator that provides information about many of the largest charities in the United States.  They have a searchable database that gives a detailed breakdown of each listed charity’s revenue and how that revenue is used.  Charity Navigator evaluates only public charities in the U.S. (that is, charities that are tax exempt under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and that must file IRS Form 990).

Another good source of information about public charities can come from your state’s government websites.  Many states require that all public charities that solicit donations within the state comply with the state’s charity registration laws.  For example, Florida’s Solicitation of Contributions Act regulates the solicitation of public contributions and requires full disclosure of certain types of information from those who solicit charitable contributions in Florida.

The Florida Division of Consumer Services website has a great deal of valuable information, including a Gift Giver’s Guide that allows Floridians to access information about specific charities registered in Florida.

Incidentally, we decided to check the State of Florida registration for Animal Friends Society, Inc. The rescue organization from which we adopted Lucy, devotes an impressive 89% of its total revenue to program services.  By doing a little homework, I know that when I give to Animal Friends Society, the money really goes to the dogs.

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The Case Against Retractable Dog Leashes

November 24th, 2009 8 comments

Why Retractable Dog Leashes May Not Be Your Best Choice

Retractable Dog Leashes Are Not the Best Choice for Training or Safety

Retractable Dog Leashes Are Not the Best Choice for Training or Safety

The mere fact that retractable dog leashes have earned the love of personal injury attorneys and the ire of dog trainers should tell you something.

What is a Retractable Dog Leash?

A retractable dog leash is a leash that is supposed to allow the handler to be able to adjust the distance the dog is permitted to wander away.  The leash itself consists of either a very thin or a webbed cord that is commonly about 16 feet (5 m) or 30 feet (9 m) in length.  The handle is usually plastic and contains a mechanism that allows the dog handler to stop the extension of the leash by pressing a button on the handle.  A clip on the leash attaches to the dog’s collar.

A Classic, Sturdy Six-foot Dog Leash is Best

A Classic, Sturdy Six-foot Dog Leash is Best for Dog and Handler

What is Wrong with Retractable Dog Leashes?

Retractable leashes have two big strikes against them:

  • They are not effective for training one’s dog.
  • They pose serious safety issues for humans and dogs.

Retractable Dog Leashes are Ineffective Dog Training Tools

The very characteristic that makes retractable dog leashes seem so attractive to dog owners is what renders them ineffective as a dog training tool.  The flexible mechanism allows the dog to wander away from the handler up to the length of the leash fully extended.  This encourages the dog to stop paying attention to her handler and to pursue whatever interests her.

Theoretically, the handler need only push the button to stop the leash; however, when you’ve already lost the dog’s attention and focus, it may be difficult to “reel” her back in, particularly if she has scented something much more interesting to her than your commands.  The flexibility of the leash gives the dog the erroneous impression that she is the master of her own destiny on the walk.  If you want to effectively train the dog to focus on and follow your verbal and physical commands, allowing her this sort of freedom on the leash is not the way to do it.

Many retractable dog leashes have a locking feature that stops the leash at a certain length.  However, if the leash has gotten damp or is starting to wear out, the locking mechanism may be difficult to engage.

Retractable Dog Leashes Pose Safety Hazards for Dogs and Their Handlers

Consumer Reports notes that retractable leashes have caused cuts, burns and even amputations when the cord came in contact with skin or became wrapped around part of the owner or the dog.  According to the report:

In 2007 there were 16,564 hospital-treated injuries associated with leashes, according to Consumer Union’s analysis of statistics collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of those, about 10.5 percent involved children 10 and younger; 23.5 percent involved injuries to the finger. The CPSC’s data does not parse the leashes into types but it’s likely that the amputations were caused by retractable leashes.

Other injuries have been reported as well.  For example, in September 2008, the Slydog brand retractable leash was recalled due to complaints that the metal clip would break and fly off.  A Texas teen has sued the manufacturer after the retractable leash she was using snapped back and punctured her eye.

Safety Tips for Using a Retractable Dog Leash

This Puppy is Better Off Without a Retractable Leash

This Puppy is Better Off Without a Retractable Leash

If you must use a retractable dog leash, keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • A retractable leash should be used, if at all, only on well-trained dogs that respond immediately to voice commands.
  • Make sure to use the appropriate size leash for your dog’s weight.
  • Check the locking mechanism prior to each use of the leash to ensure that it will engage instantly if needed.
  • Do not allow children to use the retractable leash.
  • Read and heed all manufacturer warnings for the leash.

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Irresponsible Dog Owners May Face Homicide Charges if Their Dog Kills Someone

November 23rd, 2009 2 comments

Florida Homicide Charges for Deadly Dog Attacks

Most dog owners keep dogs for companionship and try to be responsible about making sure their dogs are safe for other people to be around.  Under Florida dog bite law, if one’s dog bites or attacks someone, the dog owner may face civil liability and the dog may be designated as a “dangerous dog” for which the dog owner must make special arrangements.

Florida Dog Owners Could Face Homicide Charges for Deadly Dog Attacks

Florida Dog Owners Could Face Homicide Charges for Deadly Dog Attacks

Furthermore, there is a range of criminal liability the dog owner may face under certain circumstances if the dog injures someone.  In the most egregious cases, when the very worst happens and the dog kills someone, the dog owner may be charged with homicide.

The Robert Freeman Case

The Robert Freeman case is one of the more disturbing examples of a dog owner showing more than just a reckless disregard for the behavior of his dogs.

Robert Freeman lived in a mobile home in Citra, Florida, with six pit bull mix dogs.  His home was in a state of disrepair, with no electricity or water, and a hole in the front door where the door knob should have been.  He would tie off the door with electrical cord, but it still had a lot of “give” when pushed.  Neighbors would see Freeman’s dogs outside every day, and the dogs did not stay confined to Freeman’s property.

In January 2003, Charlie Sumpter was walking near Freeman’s property when the dogs charged from under Freeman’s mobile home and attacked, biting him numerous times.  Freeman came outside and pulled the dogs off Sumpter.  He became angry when Sumpter said he was going to seek medical attention for the bites.

In April 2003, Charlie Dennison was attacked on the street by three of Freeman’s dogs.  He was bitten on the calves, but managed to fight the dogs off.  Freeman came outside and said he thought the dogs were inside the house.

In September 2003, Jamal Williams was walking his dachshund on the street in front of Freeman’s home when six of Freeman’s dogs appeared and attacked the dachshund.  Williams tried to beat the dogs off with a stick, but they continued attacking.  Ultimately, the dogs stopped attacking and Williams took the dachshund to a veterinarian.  The next day, Freeman was angry because Williams’ grandmother reported the attack to animal control authorities.

In another incident in September 2003, Lorenzo Colding was attacked by six of Freeman’s dogs as he walked down the street near Freeman’s home.  All six dogs bit Colding.  Freeman came outside and called off the dogs.

In October 2003, Andrew Williams was walking near Freeman’s home when Freeman’s dogs came from Freeman’s yard and attacked him.  The dogs bit Williams several times before Freeman came outside and called them off.

In November 2003, Willy Clinton was walking on the street when Freeman’s dogs ran through Freeman’s front door and surrounded Clinton in a pack, threatening to attack.  Clinton was bitten on the thigh.  After 15 or 20 minutes, Freeman came outside and began petting and kissing his dogs.  Clinton admonished Freeman for “rewarding” the dogs for biting people and warned him that the dogs would eventually kill someone.

Just weeks later, on December 12, 2003, Freeman made a call to 911 stating he had just returned home from work to find his neighbor, Alice Broom, “almost dead” with a hole in her neck and the dogs still biting her.  Freeman told the 911 operator to call the “dog people” and admitted he should have gotten rid of the dogs long ago.

When paramedics arrived, they found Ms. Broom lying unconscious on the ground in the fetal position.  Half her clothes were strewn around the yard.  She had suffered massive bite wounds and was pronounced dead at the hospital.  The medical examiner found that the locations of some of her injuries were consistent with an attempt to curl up and try to defend herself against the attacks.  A forensic odontologist concluded that all six of Freeman’s dogs had attacked Ms. Broom.

Freeman was charged with, and ultimately convicted of, manslaughter by culpable negligence under Florida Statute § 782.07.

Manslaughter Charge for a Deadly Dog Attack

Freeman argued that he should have been charged with a second-degree misdemeanor under Florida’s Dangerous Dog Act instead of being charged under the homicide statute.  The appeals court disagreed.  The Dangerous Dog Act requires knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities and a reckless disregard for those propensities under the circumstances.

Manslaughter by culpable negligence, by contrast, requires more than knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities.  The manslaughter statute requires knowledge that the dog owner’s negligent act or omission is “likely to cause death or great bodily injury.”

If the dog owner knew that his dog had approached a person in a menacing fashion, the owner might have knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities, but not necessarily knowledge that his failure to keep the dog contained would be likely to cause death or great bodily injury, as is required for manslaughter.

In Robert Freeman’s case, the court concluded:

There was ample evidence that Freeman knew his dogs had escaped from his trailer and attacked passersby on several prior occasions. Yet on the day of Ms. Broom’s death, Freeman went to work, leaving his dogs free to escape and attack passersby, as they had done many times in the recent past.

Robert Freeman is currently serving more than 12 years in Florida State Prison.

Although this case is extreme, it should serve as a warning that Florida dog owners who know their dogs might kill, but who do not take steps to safeguard others, could face homicide charges if the dogs do kill someone.

Additional Resources:  How to Hire an Attorney, Florida’s Wrongful Death Act

Disclaimer:  This article is in no way intended as legal advice.  For help with specific legal issues surrounding Florida’s dog bite law, or the dog bite laws in your jurisdiction, please contact a dog bite attorney or criminal defense attorney in your local area.

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Visit Dog-Friendly Gothenburg, Sweden

November 23rd, 2009 No comments

Dogs are Welcome in Gothenburg, Sweden 

Beautiful Dog-Friendly Gothenburg, Sweden

Beautiful Dog-Friendly Gothenburg, Sweden

To say that Gothenburg, Sweden is a dog-friendly city is a bit of an understatement.  On a recent visit to this beautiful town on Sweden’s southwest coast, my husband and I were not surprised to see many residents walking their dogs throughout the city.  European cities tend to be more dog-friendly than many American cities.  But we were surprised to see a couple in a grocery store with their happy and well-behaved black Labrador Retriever.  And this was not a service dog.  He was a companion animal just accompanying his family on a routine chore.

Dog-Friendly Tourist Destinations in Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg is a wonderful summertime tourist destination.  The famous Botanical Gardens is a lush 430-acre park in the heart of the city.  There is no charge to enter the Gothenburg Botanical Gardens, and dogs are welcome so long as they are kept on a leash.

Another dog-friendly tourist destination is the old world fortress at Nya Alvsborgs Fastning.  Located approximately five miles from the city center, the fortress is accessible by boats departing from the Lilla Bommen marina several times a day from May through August.  Nya Alvsborgs Fastning features daily guided tours, sampling of local beers, old world crafts, and summer evening musical concerts.  Best of all, pets are permitted in most parts of the fortress.

One of the biggest tourist destinations in Gothenburg is the amusement park resort at Liseberg.  Featuring the biggest roller coaster in the Nordic countries, the park is open April through October each year.  Inside the park itself, only rescue and guide dogs are permitted.  However, vacation packages including accommodations are available, and some of the hotels and cottages are dog-friendly.  For example, dogs may stay in the Bohusbyn and Timmerbyn cottages with the payment of an extra charge.

Dog-Friendly Hotels in Gothenburg, Sweden

Speaking of dog-friendly accommodations, there are several to chose from in Gothenburg.  The following conveniently located hotels are all pet-friendly:

  • Comfort Hotel City Center.   This hotel is located near Casino Cosmopol.  Convenient to shopping and museums, the Comfort Hotel City Center is smoke-free and pet-friendly.
  • Quality Hotel 11.  Situated in a refurbished shipyard building in the heart of the Port of Gothenburg, the Quality Hotel 11 is located near the city center and is a smoke-free, pet-friendly accommodation.
  • Quality Hotel Panorama is located near Liseberg, the “largest amusement park in Scandinavia.”   It is pet-friendly and close to several museums and other attractions.

Sweden is a Member of the Pet Travel Scheme

Sweden, like most Eurpoean Union countries, is a member of the Pet Travel Scheme, which allows certain pets, including dogs, from countries belonging to the Scheme to enter the country without quarantine so long as they meet specified requirements.  The United States belongs to the Scheme as well.  Here is some additional information about Sweden’s requirements for obtaining a pet passport.

Additional Resource:  Visit Dog-Friendly Rotterdam in The Netherlands

Beautiful Dog-Friendly Gothenburg, Sweden

Leashed Dogs are Welcome in Gothenburg Botanical Gardens

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Categories: Traveling With Dogs