Apr 8 2009

Butler Co’s Role in a Tragedy

Butler Co Sheriff Craig D. Murphy (image courtesy of bucoks.com)

Butler Co Sheriff Craig D. Murphy (image courtesy of bucoks.com)

To a suburban resident, the occasional stray dog wandering the yard doesn’t seem like a big problem. About once a week my dog practically leaps from her skin in an effort to fend off (or, more likely, lick) dogs that wander leashless onto our property. Most have escaped their yards and are caught quickly. If not, I have the option of calling animal control.

But what if there is no animal control?

Kristine Knutson of Butler County, Kansas, decided last May to take matters into her own hands when the neighbor’s golden retriever puppy wandered up to her back porch. She claimed to be tired of loose dogs attacking her horses and doves. She pulled out her rifle and shot the retriever.

As the El Dorado Times reported Monday, Knutson was charged with animal cruelty and found guilty by jury. In an unusual move, Judge John Sanders agreed to review the jury’s findings. But ultimately, he decided to uphold their verdict. Knutson was fined almost $1,000–part of that restitution money to the family whose pet was killed–and faces 90 days in prison plus 6 months of probation.

A call to the Butler County sheriff’s office confirmed that Butler County has no animal control office, and I was told that I could contact a police officer to “explain the options” available to me if I had a problem with a stray animal. Knutson’s attorney, Gail Jensen, says the sheriff’s office told Knutson that her “option”¬†was to shoot any roving dogs on her property. If true, the Butler County sheriff is as much to blame as Knutson.

Without clear-cut guidelines, and proper avenues to follow, people like Kristine Knutson will exercise the extreme option. We applaud the judge’s decision and sentence, but Butler County needs to have a better system in place to avoid tragedies like this one. Let’s hope this case wakes them up.

Apr 6 2009

Harmless Bambi or Suburban Menace? The Fight for Deer in Johnson County

White-tailed fawns could be victims of bow hunting if the house bill passes.

White-tailed fawns could be victims of bow hunting if the house bill passes.

Last week, the Kansas House of Representatives breathed a collective sigh of relief. Bill 2342 was tabled in committee. No one would be taking a direct hit on it–yet.

Bill 2342 is a resolution to cull the deer herd in Johnson County’s Shawnee Mission Park by instituting one or more controlled bow-hunting seasons. If you’re picturing archers fanning out over the park, aiming arrows at majestic creatures shielding their fawns, you’re right. If you’re picturing ridding the park of a population explosion that poses the menace of Lyme disease, herd starvation, and highway accidents, well … you’re also right.

Shawnee Mission Park is currently home to eight times more deer than the ecosystem can handle. Supporters of a bow hunt claim the method has been used successfully in many areas, but public outcry against this cruel practice has been strident.

Animal rights activist Susan Bennett has started a petition to save Johnson County’s deer. Her 366 signatures have come from as far away as South Africa, Spain, France, and Serbia. Activists argue that people encroach on the deer’s habitat, not the reverse, and then propose to solve the problem by killing off the surplus to cater to sporting enthusiasts. “We should help these animals find food and shelter rather than slaughter them due to our own lack of foresight,” wrote Georgia Mueller in a letter to The Kansas City Star. She suggests green corridors be created to help the deer migrate and spread out.

Another idea involves sterilizing the deer with a drug called PZP. At the National Institute of Standards and Technology campus near Gaithersburg, Maryland, the deer population was reduced by about 30 percent using sterilization darts over a period of several years. Deer-vehicle traffic collisions were subsequently reduced as well.

Bill 2342 isn’t gone for good. The committee is giving Johnson County Parks & Rec a chance to craft its own recommendations, a move the district applauds. District Director Michael Meadors told The Kansas City Star to expect a public hearing on the district’s study May 11. Stay tuned for more developments.

Apr 3 2009


Sometimes a small, simple connection is all you need–and words would just get in the way.

Apr 1 2009

Shelter from the Storm

It takes more than one village to raise pets above the floodwaters in North Dakota’s Red River Valley. Read about how a humane society, a zoo, and a horse park are working together to keep evacuees’ pets safe. AP reporter James MacPherson reports the story from Grand Forks.

And according to Comtex, proactive PetSmart Charities sent their Emergency Relief Waggin’ to the scene before the river crested this past weekend. Loaded with 26 pallets of pet food and supplies, the Waggin’ and its backup trailer brought much-needed help to animals as well as their on-site caregivers.

To find out how you can help these efforts, visit the PetSmart Charities page here.

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