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Tucson abandoned animals face fatal fate if they meet Phoebe

Contrary to what Tucson parents might tell their kids, unwanted goldfish flushed down the toilet don’t end up merrily swimming round Reid Park’s duck pond and small animals let loose in a midtown neighborhood do not live happily ever after.

They are lucky to live at all.

The most recent case of an abandoned pet left to fend for itself was a plump, handsome lizard that somehow ended up in my yard. While he tried his best to blend in with all the wild lizards leaping around the scene, something about him was different.

For starters, he became up trapped in a piece of plastic grass netting that all wild lizards innately avoid. While I was gingerly cutting the rotund reptile out of his trap with a pair of snips, I got a closer look at the beast and realized he was trapped because of the spikes encircling his neck.

The thing was a bearded dragon, promptly nicknamed Trappy, and not the usual sleek, slinky lizard skittering from the sprinkler or doing push-ups on the cinderblock fence. Once Trappy was set free, he didn’t scamper behind the mesquite like all the wild lizards do but rather sat and stared at me for some time before lumbering off into the distance.

Then my dog Phoebe killed him.

Continue reading Tucson abandoned animals face fatal fate if they meet Phoebe

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NEWS: 752 dogs + 36 birds = 1 record nightmare

A rural neighborhood in Avra Valley is not even trying to keep up with the Joneses, because the Joneses had more than 700 dogs.

Authorities said 752 dogs and 36 birds were seized this week at a property in the 12200 block of West Manville Road.

Authorities were tipped off by a case of kennel cough.

The canine count increased even as the dogs were being taken to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona; a few gave birth en route.

“We have about two-dozen moms with puppies, ” society spokeswoman Jenny Rose said.

The influx of pups created the need for the Humane Society to summon rescue organizations across the nation and ready some dogs for adoption as early as the weekend.

“This is the largest seizure that’s happened in Pima County that I’m aware of, ” sheriff’s Sgt. Terry Parish said.

Neighbors said the triple-wide mobile home was the residence of Billy and Wanda Jones for about the past 10 years. Some residents figured the couple kept about 50 dogs; others thought about 150. No one in their wildest estimate guessed more than 700.

Most of the animals were in crates in the home. Some were found in a barn on the property. All were in squalid surroundings, Rose said.

“The conditions were pretty brutal,” Rose said. “There were lots of animals and feces everywhere.”

Some dogs were missing their paws, Rose said, most likely the result of getting caught in fencing or attacked by other dogs. Three dogs were found dead, one from being attacked. The other two were puppies.

One arrived in such bad shape it had to be euthanized, Rose said.

Still, she said, most are “in remarkably good condition.”

The society has all the animals at its Companions for Life Center, 3465 E. Kleindale Road, around the corner from the Humane Society shelter, until the animals can be examined and deemed healthy for adoption.

The shelter, which can house 150 to 200 animals, was full before these dogs and birds came in

A rescue group from Phoenix took 80 of the dogs Wednesday night, and a rescue group from San Diego is coming Friday to take more, Rose said. The rest will go out to other rescue organizations or new homes in the metro area, she said.

The couple willingly signed over the animals to the Humane Society, Parish said, and hope to get 12 of the parrots returned once the birds are examined.

Small dogs, Chihuahuas especially, have become the latest fashion accessory because of pop icons such as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Madonna, and movies such as “Legally Blond” and its sequel.

People will pay thousands of dollars for teacups and some toy breeds.

Parish said the couple did not ask for the return of any dogs, which Rose said include Chihuahuas, Chinese cresteds, Yorkshire and other terriers, Lhasa apsos and a smattering of other small breeds.

Parish said the owners were elderly and meant well but “got in over their heads.” The charges, if any, would be animal abuse by neglect, he said.

Sheriff’s Sgt. James Ogden said the Pima County Attorney’s Office will receive the outcome of the investigation and decide if charges are warranted.

Neighbors said Wanda Jones bred the dogs and sold them by meeting people on a nearby corner because she was afraid to bring strangers to the house. The dogs were listed on a number of puppy-mill sites, such as and puppiesforsaleusa.

“She wouldn’t even invite me over when she first moved in,” said Rita Backes, 57, who lives with her husband, their 3-year-old foster child and four dogs on an adjacent 5-acre lot.

Backes said the Joneses are nice people but increasingly kept to themselves over the years.

She knew Wanda Jones loved the animals and fed them Iams brand food because an Iams truck would deliver once a month.

“Maybe she just was a compassionate person and didn’t know how to channel it,” Backes said. “Maybe she had an obsession. Well, obviously she had an obsession.”

Neighbors Doug and Mary Schroder, both 50, weren’t as laid-back.

Mary Schroder said she repeatedly called the Pima Animal Care Center for the past several years to no avail.

“They could have taken care of this 400 dogs ago,” she said.

She said the dogs were constantly barking or fighting, and frequently got loose.

When the breeze blew just right, it made for an awful odor, she said.

“The stench was worse than a slaughterhouse,” she said. “No, it was worse than crossing the Santa Cruz River with the wind blowing in from the (sewage) plant.”

The Schroders tried mediation with the Joneses, bringing Our Family Community Mediation into the mix to help with the barking.

“It would be quieter for a few days, then start all over again,” she said.

Within the last year, the situation got markedly worse, she said.

At times, Schroder said, she would have to pick up 60 to 70 bags of dog waste after Jones walked her pooches on the easement in front of the Schroders’ house.

The Joneses declined comment, with their property guarded Wednesday by a sheriff’s representative.

Officials of the county animal center were not available for comment Wednesday night.

The mobile home packed with pets was first brought to authorities’ attention after a dog purchased by someone from Payson came down with kennel cough, Rose said.

The dog owner’s vet told the owner to alert authorities once the vet heard where the dog came from.

“Two people, especially elderly people trying to care for these animals, is just not possible,” Parish said. “They knew they were in over their heads. They said as much to me.”

The Joneses are not the only ones relieved.

“It’s so nice, so nice,” Mary Schroder said of the quiet that descended on the area Wednesday night.

“People live out here to get away and do their own thing,” her husband said. “But it’s not right when it starts interfering with other people’s quality of life.

“I’m just glad it’s over. I’m hoping it’s over. It’s nice to watch the sun go down, to live without the barking all day and all night.”

This article originally appeared in the March 13, 2008, issue of the Tucson Citizen.

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Headless javelinas $3,000 reward, two deer slayers arrested

Operation Game Thief open in javelina case; two arrested in prior deer poaching case

Two headless javenlias were found illegally shot alongside a trail in Cochise County and up to $3, 000 could be yours for helping the Arizona Game and Fish Department nab responsible poachers, according to a news release from the agency.

Javelina get no respect/file photo

The javelina carcasses were found Feb. 24 near St. David, along East Touchstone Trail south of Interstate 10. Although the javelina had been field dressed, they had no game tags attached. Both appeared freshly killed by gunshot wounds through their shoulders. Both were missing their heads, which Sawyer surmises went home to be trophies.

“Evidence at the scene suggests that they may have been left at that location by two individuals who drove there from the intersection of Sybil Road and East Touchstone Trail, then returned by the same route,” the release said.

The reward money includes $2,500 from The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust as well as $500 from AZ Game and Fish.

“Poachers are thieves who steal wildlife from the citizens of Arizona. No true hunter would leave game by the side of the road to waste,” said Regional Supervisor Raul Vega of the AGFD office in Tucson. “We appreciate greatly the Humane Society offering a generous reward in this case as part of their ongoing involvement in helping us solve wildlife crimes.”

Game and Fish urges anyone with information to call the toll-free Operation Game Thief hotline at 800-352-0700 or visit

You may remain anonymous.

While the headless javelina case remains open, Operation Game Thief recently worked in nabbing two suspects in connection with the illegal killing of a mule deer doe just south of Seligman back in October, another AZGFD release reports.

The doe had been shot in the neck and left to rot. The informant received half of the $1,000 reward from Game and Fish when two men were arrested. The other half gets paid by the Mule Deer Foundation upon conviction.

Winslow’s Mario Avalos, 58, was slapped with $1,200 in fines after pleading guilty to taking of the wrong sex, possession of unlawfully taken big game and waste of game meat.

Seligman’s Hugh Campbell, 22, was cited for the same charges. His case is pending.

Both guys could also lose their hunting and fishing privileges for up to five years and civil sanctions from the Game and Fish Commission that could result in penalties of at least $1,500.

This post originally appeared March 9, 2010 on the blog Sawyer Says: Animal Talk on

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The case of the duct taped coyote: Does anyone care about coyote abuse?

Tucsonan Joe Gardner was on one of his favorite day trips to Lochiel, about 100 miles southeast of Tucson, where the air is clean and the land pristine – usually.

Except when he finds a dead duct taped coyote.

Duct-taped coyote/submitted photo

During his trek about two weeks ago, the 62-year-old who grew up in the Lochiel area noted buzzards circling about and followed their feast to find a mutilated carcass.

The coyote was definitely dead, with a hole in his underside where something had chewed out his entrails. He had not been skinned, but the two front legs and two back legs had been secured with tape, leaving him defenseless, provided he had still been alive when taped.

“I was surprised and puzzled and wondered about mutilation stories I had heard in the past,” Gardner said, “but those involved livestock, not wild animals. I also wondered if it was some kind of sick message for human smugglers, who are also referred to as coyotes.”

He vaguely recalled stories of livestock’s organs and genitalia being removed with “precision-appearing incisions” some time back in Cochise County. Perhaps Jack the Ripper of the cattle world.

Yet he had never seen such abuse of coyotes.

Lochiel school house/submitted photo

“I have not an inkling as to who or why would bind a coyote and leave it out for the buzzards,” he said. “I was born and raised in the area, and as a matter of fact, this was right in front of the one room school I attended when I was a kid. I know just about everyone who lives in the area, and can’t imagine any locals doing this, as they live in the area because they love and respect the land.”

Nothing respectful about a duct taped coyote.

Arizona’s animal cruelty felony law, ARS 13-2910, slaps a felony on anyone that “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly inflicts unnecessary physical injury to any animal.”

Awesome law. But it may not apply in the case of the duct taped coyote.

“Law enforcement would have to successfully allege that it was cruelty,” explained Marsh Myers, spokesman for the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona. “Since coyotes can be legally hunted, an investigation would have to rule this possibility out. Sometimes the animal is hunted and then the carcass is just left to rot. It’s a sloppy practice but it happens all the time.”

In that case, it’s OK.

Many hunters are respectful – even reverent – about nature and engage in the sport for much more than just the kill. But there are always the idiots.

In another coyote case earlier this year, six mutilated carcasses were found dumped in a creek near an Oklahoma high school.

The critters had been skinned, with their front legs chopped off at the knees and their remains unceremoniously hurled where teens could easily find them.

The animals were originally thought to be dogs and all hell broke loose. Necropsies revealed they had been a half dozen coyotes. Hell kind of subsided.

While Oklahoma, like Arizona, does have animal cruelty laws with severe penalties, it would probably not apply if the animals were being hunted for their fur.

Authorities in Ohio were going nuts in 2007 trying to find the sicko who apparently skinned and boiled a dog – while it was still alive.

The animal, identified by a vet as a chow/pit bull mix, was fully skinned except for fur left on its paws, had cuts on its legs and neck and had wire wound around one of the back legs.

Someone finally did come forward to confess – that the animal was not a dog at all but simply a coyote he hunted but didn’t dispose of properly.

Even though the vet had initially been wrong about the animal’s identification, calling it a dog, the doc was not wrong about the animal having been still alive when it was boiled and skinned.

No matter. It was just a coyote.

The case was immediately closed and all pending criminal charges promptly dropped.

This post originally appeared Oct. 23, 2009, on Rynski’s Blogski when it was still at

What do you think?

Is there a way to better enforce – or even prove – the animal cruelty felony law?

Can anything be done to better protect hunted wildlife from undue abuse?

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Parrot busted for helping narcotics cartel, Border Patrol drug dogs: Animals in the drug trade

Lorenzo the parrot – yes, parrot – was recently busted just for following orders.

Authorities seized 1,700 birds trained to act as drug lookouts/Thinkstock

Too bad his orders were to alert Columbian drug cartel members that police were lurking nearby, AP reports.

“Run, run, you are going to get caught,” is the catch phrase Lorenzo was trained to squawk in Spanish. And squawk he did when authorities moved in during an undercover drug raid last week on the cartel’s turf in Barranquilla.

Despite Lorenzo’s warning, authorities managed to seize “a large quantity” of marijuana, 200 weapons, and a stolen motorcycle. Police also made four arrests, perhaps from those too bird-brained to heed Lorenzo’s alert.

Oh, authorities also seized poor Lorenzo, along with 1,700 other birds who were also trained as lookouts for drug traffickers.


For the record, “environmental authorities” now have the birds.

Does training animals to abet in illegal activities constitute animal cruelty or abuse?

Drug dog in action/submitted

On the other side of the ring, so to speak, we have the U.S. Customs and Border Protection canines trained to sniff out narcotics.

The canine program officially began on April Fools Day 1970, the CBP website says, just when the futile “drug war” kicked off to counter the “make love, do drugs” stuff of the 1960s.

A German shepherd named Albert sniffed out the first drug dog bust, alerting on a car’s door panel that concealed five pounds of marijuana.

Compare this to the overall haul for fiscal year 2009, when drug dogs sniffed out more than 670,000 pounds of marijuana along with some 26,000 pounds of cocaine, more than 1,000 pounds of heroin, nearly 3 million pills and $34 million in undeclared cash.

The canine program last year alone trained 128 detection canines, trained to sniff out drugs, concealed humans, money and firearms. Don’t forget those specially trained to detect prohibited agricultural products and meats, dead bodies and those used in search and rescue operations.

But the dogs, and authorities, are certainly kept busy as parrots are not the only critters recruited into the drug trade.

Carrier pigeons have been used to smuggle little baggies of heroin and cocaine into prisoners in Bosnia, ABC News says, while an AP blurb in Brown University’s Laboratory Primate Newsletter notes monkeys have also been used in the drug trade.

Two monkeys in Bangladesh, named Munni and Hamid, were confiscated from a drug house when authorities learned they had been trained to sell drugs to addicts who showed up needing their fix of a narcotic syrup called phensidyl. The addicts would hand the money to Munni while Hamid would retrieve the little bottles of the syrup from their hiding places on the roof, beneath the bed or wherever else they were stashed around the home.


Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who likes drug sniffing dogs better than squawking parrots. Her column usually appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski, but the Friday, Sept. 24 entry will feature a special report instead. Her art, writing and more is at and E-mail

NOTE: Thanks to Cherlyn Gardner Strong for bringing this topic to my attention.

What do you think?

Do animals trained to help cartels or deal drugs constitute animal abuse?

Would you buy drugs from a monkey?