March 28, 2010

Animal Cruelty? What’s behind the Truth?



     What is true?

     The Almost Heaven Kennel, owned by Lehigh County resident Derbe “Skip” Eckhart, was closed down in 2008 by Pennsylvania dog Warden Kristen Donmoyer (a kennel-compliance specialist with the state Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement). He is on trial for animal cruelty and other counts following a 2008 raid.

     Donmoyer, who closed the kennel due to deplorable conditions, testified that she’d “never forget the (sickening) smell” of ammonia produced by animal urine. On cross-examination, she acknowledged that the kennel passed inspection earlier in 2008, less than two months before she closed it. She testified that there was no “notation of dogs in wretched, deplorable conditions” After Jeff Conrad, defense lawyer, stated that wardens could be arbitrary and capricious if they chose to be, Donmoyer agreed that even a “nasty old weed” on the premises could be in violation of the finer points of the Pennsylvania kennel regulations.

     Some of the scores of dogs and cats seized from Derbe ”Skip” Eckhart’s Almost Heaven kennel are already up for adoption through the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Philadelphia, and many more are expected to be available after they receive medical treatment and behavioral rehabilitation.* On June 25, 2009, Chris Ryder, a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced that 211 dogs were healthy enough for adoption.**

     Larger issues are raised by this case. How was the Animal Heaven kennel initially approved, considering Eckhart had a long history of run-ins with state and local authorities, and was convicted at least twice of animal cruelty.*

      I’m not examining this case to decide whether Eckhart is guilty or innocent. I do want to examine whether it is possible (more…)

February 23, 2010

Dog Fighting & Cock Fighting: Cultural Phenomenon?




     On July 17, 2007, Michael Vick was charged with owning and operating an illegal dog-fighting organization, aptly called Bad Newz Kennels, in rural southeastern Virginia. Not only was excessive violence applied to “losing” dogs—allegedly, there was substantial gambling.

     Vick was suspended indefinitely from the National Football League, where he was a quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons. He also lost his lost his contract with Nike and endured the wrath of animal rights groups. The allegations were investigated by local and federal authorities. Vick was defended by a legal defense team consisting of five top-notch lawyers.

     Vick admitted to killing six to eight dogs whose demonstrated poor performance during training sessions. He also admitted to financing the Kennels and bankrolling gambling on the dog fights. When he entered his plea in federal court, he apologized and asked for forgiveness. On December 10, 2007, he was sentenced to 23 months in prison. Approximately fifty persons attended the sentencing hearing, some siding with animal rights activists, some supporting Vick.

     Vick mustered a short speech, apologizing to some people and admitting “I’ve used poor judgment.”    


    According to Whoopi Goldberg, the problem may be cultural. On the television program, The View, she defended Vick by stating that “from where he comes from” in the South, dogfighting isn’t that unusual.

      “It’s like cockfighting in Puerto Rico,” she said. “There are certain things that are indicative to certain parts of the country.”

     Co-host Joy Behar looked horrified at Goldberg and asked, “How about dog torture and dog murdering?” Goldberg replied that for many people, dogs are sport, and it appeared it took awhile for Vick to realize that he was up against serious charges.

     “I just thought it was interesting, because it seemed like a light went off in his head when he realized this was something that the entire country didn’t appreciate,” she said.


      According to historical journals, Whoopi has a point. During America’s early days, cock-fighting, was commonplace. A French military man touring the United States between 1780-1783 wrote this about the Americans:

“They have another sport, which is (more…)

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