Convicted dog fighters can adopt dogs from county shelter with failed policies

County has little regard for safety of adopted dogs-slide0

Facebook page about hog hunting

No requirement that the adopter treat her heartworm disease

Photo by Rescue Me Tampa

Convicted dogfighters able to adopt dogs? In Tampa, Florida, that’s the reality.

The county shelter in Hillsborough County, Florida, doesn’t know who legally shouldn’t be able to adopt animals. Steve Andrews of NewsChannel 8 in a story yesterday confirmed what animal rescuers have seen more and more under the current shelter management — Pet Services in Tampa has no idea of who should adopt or not. And they don’t really care. The story Andrews shares is about a dog named Cabela. She was bought by dogfighters to fight other dogs, but she was too sweet and refused to fight. The now-convicted fighters, Kenny Bell and Darnell Devlin didn’t want her anymore. She was taken to the woods and shot, but injured, she managed to return home. The dog fighters then told two boys to “get rid of her,” so they tied her to railroad tracks, and then shot her again. She lay there waiting for death.

Cabela was lucky. She was rescued by Tampa police Sgt. Rich Mills (story here) and rushed to an emergency clinic where not only did she live, but they saved her injured leg. Even Huffington Post wrote about her story (story here). Those involved were convicted and prohibited from owning animals. The judge in the case, Circuit Judge Lisa Campbell, said “I don’t care if it’s a fish,” Campbell told him. “No animals at all,” according to The Tampa Tribune. However as Steve Andrews reported, Hillsborough County Pet Resources Center does not have them on their list of enjoined residents who are prohibited from owning animals. So they could go to the shelter and for $20 each get as many dogs as they wanted.

Local animal activists have long complained about the shelter’s lax adoption procedure and incompetent record keeping. While reputable, responsible private rescues and humane societies require an application and home check, the Pet Resource Center (PRC) does none of that. There is no application, no home check, nothing. But horrifyingly, the PRC does nothing to ensure that its animals, who depend on the shelter to keep them safe, are placed into loving homes where they will be safe.

For example, It’s perfectly legal for a convicted felon to adopt two pit bulls and keep them in pens to use as hog hunters. In fact, recently when rescuers asked for a home check on two adopted pit bulls, the adopter (with a long sheet of problems with the law as well as the felony conviction) had given the shelter a false address. The animal control officer went to the address the adopter gave when he adopted the two dogs and was told that the address was of the former girlfriend of the adopter and that the adopter had never lived there. The animal control officer then went to the actual address of the adopter and saw four dogs there. Two were the adopted dogs, and the officer was told that the other two were dogs that his roommate found. They were told that the two “found” dogs needed to be licensed, but the officer did not report the found dogs so that anyone looking for them would know where the dogs were.

In fact, those dogs were put up for sale with hog hunting equipment for $350. Dogs that he claimed he had “found” a few days earlier. And apparently, that is legal in Florida. The adopter also wrote on the Facebook page of someone who needed to “get rid of” her two dogs that he “had too many dogs” but could take more once he had his pens built. Living in a dog pen is not a life for a dog. And hunting hogs could be the death of a dog. This same felon posted that two of his dogs died — he didn’t specify how or whether it was because of hog hunting. But it’s okay. He just went to PRC to replace them. For only $20 a dog, it’s cheaper than replacing the oil in your car. And for those who don’t think hog hunting can be deadly for dogs, here is a post copied from a Facebook page on hog hunting:

“2 Florida men did it again good hog for tonight one dog cut up real bad”

In the past, the shelter had limits on the number of dogs that could be adopted from the shelter. Now, any limits the shelter might have (it’s not clear if there are limits) are far too generous considering that no welfare check is done post-adoption. Rescuers claim that under the leadership of Scott Trebowski, the shelter has gone from caring about the fate of the animals they save to caring only about the numbers. Some dogs found as “strays” have been at the shelter two and three times previously. Yet to keep the “no-kill” numbers looking good, the shelter does not count those as owner returns (although the owner dumped the dog on the street and will not return shelter calls), does not put the owners (who don’t come back for their dogs when called) on a do-not-adopt list, or in any way change their practices to prevent that from happening — over and over again — in the future.

A local activist told the story of one dog, Nicole, who was sweet and dog friendly. At the shelter, she was so good with other dogs they used her as a greeter dog to assess the temperament of new dogs. Yet after two failed adoptions, she started attacking other dogs at the shelter. Bouncing around from place to place, home to shelter and back again, is no life for a dog. The stress it causes can ruin the temperament of even the nicest dog. Like other dogs who went to homes and were later found on the streets later, no action is taken against those who adopted the dogs. In fact, not only are they not prosecuted for abandoning their dogs, they can go right back to the shelter to adopt another dog — or two or three.

Another source of contention is that dogs who are known to be heartworm positive can be adopted by people who will not get the dogs treated. This disease is deadly, and without treatment a dog dies a horrible death. But the shelter doesn’t care if the adopted dogs ever even see a veterinarian. There is no requirement that an animal get medical care in the current agreement. The shelter has stated the in the case of advanced heartworm with symptoms, they would require veterinarian care.

A shelter should be about humane treatment and finding safe homes — not about making the numbers look good at all costs. Allowing dogs to be adopted and used for hog hunting, living in cages instead of homes, treated as a weapon instead of a companion, is not acceptable.

The county commissioners don’t seem to care. But perhaps, if they hear from people in the county, and people who will refuse to visit Tampa and spend tourist dollars there until its animals are treated humanely, they might listen. Money talks.

To email the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners (respectfully, please):

Board of County Commissioner emails (please keep your emails respectful, thank you!)

Matthew Cody’s school presentation ‘Super’


‘Echo’ by Pam Muñoz Ryan: Fabulous middle grade historical fiction/fantasy


Rating: 5 stars

In “Echo,” Pam Muñoz Ryan manages to combine historical fiction with a touch of magic, and the result, somehow, is one hundred per cent magical. To make a wonderful book even better, the audio version of “Echo” has skilled narrators and lovely music played (mostly) by the very talented Corky Siegel.

“Echo” begins in a time “before enchantment was eclipsed by doubt…” There the story begins with a tale of a king who desperately needs a son and his queen, who bears him three daughters. There are other important elements, too: a witch, a loyal midwife, and a curse. The tale then jumps to Otto’s story. He finds the three cursed sisters in the middle of a forest. Their curse is that they can only leave the circle of trees which surrounds them via a woodwind instrument, and Otto has a mouth harp (harmonica) which suffices as a woodwind.

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‘Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood’ by Liesl Shurtliff


Rating: 4 1/2 stars

Liesl Shurtliff writes another fabulous,fractured fairy tale with “Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood.” Those who enjoyed “Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin” and “Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk” will love this story.

Readers are introduced to Red in Shurtliff’s first book, “Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin.” Red is feisty, and readers learn that she doesn’t trust magic. In this story, readers learn why she doesn’t trust magic. Red is really afraid of magic. Because she is young, when her grandmother (a witch) tries to teach her how to perform magic, she hasn’t been in control. When trying to start a fire, she burns down things. Red does not believe that she can do magic correctly, so she shuns it.

The other thing that Red is really afraid of is losing her grandmother. When her parents leave Red with her grandmother and go away for a week, Red is terrified when her grandmother falls sick. She decides to search for the magic that will save her grandmother’s life.

Along the way, Red encounters the wolf. She has seen him before, and her grandmother suspects that he stole her pigs away for dinner, but this is the first time that she gets really close to him. Red can understand what animals are saying, and the wolf is lonely. What he says to her is “come…”

Red also encounters Goldie, of famous three bears fame. Goldie is obnoxious and irritating, but Red soon discovers that Goldie is extremely unhappy because she doesn’t think her mother loves her. There is also the hunter who is hunting the wolf, and the hunter has secrets of his own.

Red’s charm and winning ways lead her to discover the best in everyone she encounters — even a grumpy dwarf (hope there’s a book about him soon). She finds magic that could save her grandmother — but at what cost? Is eternal youth, or eternal life, the answer? There is much to think about and much to discuss in this fairy tale fantasy that asks real life questions.

Shurtliff references other fairy tales (Beauty and the Beast and more) in this story and the twists are delightful. This story has several such twists, and the ending is practically perfect. Red learns what is important in life and what things are truly worth being afraid of.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Knopf Books for Young Readers for review purposes.

‘Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk’ by Liesl Shurtliff


Rating: 5 stars

“JACK: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk” by Liesl Shurtliff is every bit as brilliant and well written as her first book in the series, “RUMP: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin.”

It’s about Jack, of course, who has been hearing for his whole life stories about how his “seven times great grandfather” killed the giant. But nothing prepares him for when the giants descend through the sky to pick their village clean. Literally. They take whole houses with the people inside them. And when they take Jack’s father, he decides it’s time for him to fulfill his legacy and rescue his father.

Shurtliff manages to cleverly include several other fairy tales and nursery rhymes. The cobbler and the elves? Check. The woman who lived in a shoe with her many children? Check. She also twists the much-told Jack story, and readers will love to find out about who says “Fee fie fo fum.” Oh, and Jack’s younger sister, Annabella? She is pretty capable, too. In fact, she saves Jack’s bacon more than once.

The details are fabulous, the characters winning, and the story engrossing. It’s fun, and readers who loved “RUMP” (and even readers who didn’t) will enjoy this ride into giant-land. Perfect for middle grade readers or for anyone who enjoys fractured fairy tales.

Boys will love the adventure. Girls will love the adventure and the magic. It’s great fun.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers for review purposes.

Doggy picture book roundup for Spring


There are many wonderful picture books about dogs — both fiction and nonfiction — recently published and to be published that are worth a place on the bookshelf of any library, classroom or bedroom.

“Stay” is by Alex Latimer, author of “The Boy Who Cried Ninja” and other picture books. In “Stay,” he writes about Buster, who his buddy Ben thinks is the best dog in the world. His parents do not agree. Holding a chewed slipper in the middle of a living room decorated with dirt, overturned pots, dog bones and dog prints on the wall, they decide they need a vacation. They also decide that Buster will stay with Grampa instead of ruining their trip (one page is cleverly devoted to how Buster ruined their last trip). In preparation for the trip, Ben leaves Grampa plenty of advice about Buster’s likes and dislikes. Lots and lots of advice. When Buster misbehaves just once too often, Grampa has had enough. And he does something that only a wonderful grandfather would do — he trains Buster. And when Ben returns from vacation, Grampa teaches Ben how to continue the training. This is a wonderful book for anyone who is thinking of getting a dog or a puppy — or anyone with a dog that has occasionally misbehaved. In short, this is a book for everyone. Adorable, simple but interesting illustrations; kids will love it! (Peachtree Publishers)

“Love is My Favorite Thing” by Emma Chichester Clark is another picture book about a misbehaving dog. In this case, Plum’s favorite thing is love. This nondescript black dog loves snow and sun. She loves her bed and her bear. She loves treats and sticks. But she also loves stealing ice cream cones in the park, playing tug of war with feather cushions (that break, of course), and jumping into fountains and getting wet. When she is reprimanded and sent to bed, poor Plum wonders if her family still loves her. Children will love this story of forgiveness and unconditional love. Great illustrations which are simple but express the emotions of the story. (Nancy Paulsen Books)

To round out the doggy collection is a nonfiction book about dogs called “From Wolf to Woof! The Story of Dogs” by Hudson Talbott. It’s very touching, and like many “nonfiction” books, it includes a bit of fiction to get the story across. In this book, Talbott explains how dogs came from wolves. He creates an orphan boy and an orphan puppy who join up to help each other. Eventually, other misfit wolves and children join them and soon they all live together. While this book will appeal to children of all ages, it would be a great springboard for a research project for older students on the origin of dogs. A study in Siberia of foxes shows that after selective breeding of the most friendly foxes, the animals begin to show physical changes. Their coloring changes, their ears flop, and they wag their tails. Current research by Brian Hare and others actually hypothesize that the domestication of dogs is what enabled humans to develop and change as we have.

Dogs and children go together. There are many, many wonderful books about dogs for children of all ages to enjoy. For older children, middle grade books about dogs like “Buddy” and “Shadow” will be devoured. Another great picture book about a lost — and found — dog is “A Dog Wearing Shoes.

Please note: This was based on the final hardcover copies of the books provided by the publisher for review purposes.

‘Rook’ by Sharon Cameron: Wonderful young adult fiction


Rating: 5 stars

“Rook” by Sharon Cameron is a wonderfully written young adult version of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” This story, however, takes place in a distant future, when the earth’s poles have shifted, causing massive upheaval and a collapse of all technology as we know it. Cameron has created a new world that is really much like the world that we think of as primitive. Her “new” countries have slightly different names, but sound similar enough to be familiar.

England is called the Commonwealth, and France is Parisian. Paris has become a sunken city, and the poor are in the process of killing the wealthy and the aristocrats via the Razor, a machine very much like a guillotine. The society has also banned any and all technology because the people who survived the original sudden movement of the earth were not able to feed themselves. Their dependence on technology led to the starvation and deaths of millions. So no technology anymore. Not even a grindstone for a mill.

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‘Kingdom of Ashes’ by Rhiannon Thomas: Sequel to ‘A Wicked Thing’



Rating: 4 stars

“Kingdom of Ashes” by Rhiannon Thomas follows the story of Sleeping Beauty that began with “A Wicked Thing.” This is a Sleeping Beauty unlike any fairy tale read to a child. It’s a story of wickedness and political unrest, and Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty who was used as a pawn for a king’s evil plan.

When, at the end of “A Wicked Thing,” Aurora escapes the evil machinations of King John, whose son Rodric awakened Aurora, she doesn’t know where she will go. At the beginning of this book, the spark of magic that she had in the first book explodes when she accidentally sets a town on fire after the king’s guards find her and try to arrest her.

Aurora ends up in Vanhelm, the kingdom of Finnegan, the prince that she didn’t trust in the first book. In this story she learns about the dragons that plague the land of Vanhelm. They had appeared fifty years before and burned the country down. Because the dragons would not cross water, the only safe place was the capital city which was an island. It is crowded with all those left of the kingdom — crowded on the island. Because her magic seems to be a fire magic, Aurora believes that she has a connection with the dragons. Finnegan believes that she can help put the dragons back to sleep.

Aurora also must figure out how to deal with Celestine, the witch who cast the original spell that caused Aurora to sleep for a hundred years. Celestine wants Aurora to live with her so Celestine can train Aurora in magic. Aurora has many decisions to make and because of her youth, she makes some of them rashly and with serious consequences.

Aurora is determined to return to her country and rid them of the tyrannical king. She has been branded a traitor and a witch, so she is not sure of her reception there. There is also the mystery to be solved of what the curse was that put her to sleep for a century. What did Celestine want and what did her mother offer in trade? Celestine claims that her mother breached their agreement and that is why she cursed Aurora to sleep for all those years.

Thomas writes with plenty of action and she uses dialogue effectively to show the characters of Aurora and Finnegan. Although at times it seems that she has difficulty showing how women can bond unless they are doing each other’s hair, the characters are more than one-dimensional fairy tale figures.

Fairy tale readers will enjoy this tale which does not really have a happy ending — yet.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by HarperTeen, the publisher, for review purposes.

‘Stella by Starlight’ by Sharon M. Draper: Strong fiction about the South


Rating: 5 stars

“Stella by Starlight” is by the acclaimed author Sharon M. Draper. It’s a story dedicated not only to her father, but also to her grandmother, Estelle, who she writes “Lived from 1905 to 1983. She, too, listened to the elders and learned to survive pain. Her life was not always easy, and she struggled with many things. But she loved her children and she passed her strength along to them. And she kept her memories in that journal.”

This fictional Stella also writes in a journal. In fact, she sneaks outside at night to try to write because she is ashamed that writing is so difficult for her during the day at school. While Stella has lots and lots of ideas, getting them onto paper is difficult — but Stella desperately wants to.

But it’s the beginning of the book that will grab readers by the throat and not let them go until the last page. Because the first page is about the Klu Klux Klan burning a cross while the main character and her brother are hiding and watching from across the pond — the reader knows that this is going to be an exciting, tension-filled book.

And it is. But it’s also about family and love and kindness. It’s not only about people without a drop of compassion for those whose skin is a different color — it’s about the white people who did what they could to make things better. It’s about children who do not share the prejudice of their parents, and it’s about keeping one’s dignity even at the possible cost of one’s life.

Ugly things happen in this book. But beautiful things also come to pass. The narration is third person but the point of view is all Stella. And Stella is a great character. Strong, determined, loyal, and yet filled with doubts about her ability to write. She acts decisively and is quick to help others.

Stella grows a lot during the course of the story even though it’s not long in terms of chronological time. She matures, she sees more than any young child should, and she learns how to stand up for herself. It’s a great choice for teachers who want to show character development.

With the movie about Selma and its march, this is the perfect time for children to read “Stella by Starlight.” There is a scene in it reminiscent of the voting scene in the movie “Selma,” where Stella’s father and two other men go to town and register to vote. It’s a gripping scene, but just one of many that will cause the reader to keep reading to find out what happens next.

This story would make a fabulous read aloud for fourth, fifth or sixth grade students, and the story will excite children from fourth grade through middle school. High school students would love this as a quick and easy read. Stella is an admirable and likable character from her dirty toes (no shoes) to her thick curly black hair.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, for review purposes.

HERE IS THE LINK TO QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS BOOK FOR USE WITH STUDENTS. Questions created by my husband and former English teacher Jack Kramer. The questions are available for free download, and are to be used in educational and/or private settings. They may not be used elsewhere or for other purposes (such as for profit) unless explicit permission is granted.

‘Maple and Willow Together’ by Lori Nichols: A picture book about sisters


Rating: 5 stars

Readers were first introduced to Maple in the book simply titled “Maple.” In “Maple and Willow Together,” author Lori Nichols gives Maple a younger sister who displaces Maple’s beloved tree. While “Maple” was a paean to nature and trees, this new story is an ode to sisterhood and the importance of staying close.

Maple and her sister, Willow, are best friends, and they do everything together. They play in the leaves together in the fall. In winter, they make snow angels together. And in the spring, they explore nature together looking for rocks and catching grasshoppers (which I’m sure they always let go). And while there might be a few things they do differently, it works out. If Maple is in charge of holding the umbrella on a rainy day, Willow is in charge of splashing through puddles.

But just as into every life some rain must fall, in the lives of Maple and Willow, there is sure to be some strife. When they disagree about how to treat dandelion blooms, both girls have temper tantrums. And for a few minutes, “…Neither sister wanted to be together ever again.”

But just as summer rains pass by, so do temporary temper tantrums. Soon Maple and Willow find that life alone is just not as much fun as life with a best friend — a sister. So they make up and return to enjoying all life has to offer as sisters and best friends.

The maple tree and the willow tree from the first “Maple” book feature prominently in this book. Clever children might point out the similarity in the two books in terms of the passing of seasons and the growth of the characters. A great discussion would be to talk to kids about whether they think that the two sisters change as a result of their experience.

As in “Maple,” the illustrations are simple yet lovely. Nichols make great use of white space for many pages, and that serves to make the full-color pages even more special. Her “trademark” maple leaf is featured in many of the illustrations.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books, for review purposes.

‘Scents and Sensibility’ by Spencer Quinn: Another fabulous Chet and Bernie book


Rating: 5 stars

“Scents and Sensibility” by Spencer Quinn (also knows as Peter Abrahams) takes the light-hearted, humor-filled, lovely duo consisting of Bernie, the bumbling detective, and Chet, his smarter-than-a-border-collie companion, and brings in some drama. Bernie may be in danger, but when Chet is threatened, readers get worried.

And Chet is in a sticky, dangerous situation in this book. It is really touch-and-go for a while. But, of course, the reader can take solace in the fact that without Chet, there is no Chet and Bernie series. So in the end, Chet has to come out unscathed. They take on a network of thieves who steal cacti, and in fact, learn about this when their elderly neighbor (Izzy’s dad), is presented with a stolen cactus by his neer-do-well son. Trouble ensues. Lots of trouble.

Otherwise, it’s another detective story with the fabulous character of Chet telling the story in his inimitable manner — with all sorts of doggy starts and stops and digressions (especially when there are delicious or especially pungent aromas on the scene). The ending of this book is especially touching. Most readers will want to read it over (and maybe over yet again, to be sure they are understanding it). It’s beautifully written and very emotional.

This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Atria Books for review purposes.