Muttville senior dog rescue, one of our very favorite rescue groups, has made the top 10 finalists for CNN Hero of the Year. While volunteering at the San Francisco SPCA, Sherri Franklin noticed that older dogs didn’t get adopted. Watching the dogs lose hope broke her heart, so in 2007 Franklin started Muttville. Since then, the group has found forever homes for more than 4,000 senior dogs, allowing them to live out their golden years the way all faithful companions deserve. From humble beginnings in Franklin’s home, Muttville now has its own facility where dogs roam freely in big rooms filled with comfy beds and sofas. They have a network of more than 100 foster families (though, like every rescue, they can always use more).
One of Muttville’s most successful programs is pairing senior dogs with senior citizens. I know from taking care of my stepmother, Kickie, that dogs can make a huge difference in elderly lives. Since my rescued pit bull Skylar and I began staying with Kickie part-time, her blood pressure — once dangerously high — has stabilized. And she’s not only healthier, she’s happier. Her doctor credits the dog.
Muttville also has a program called “Fospice” (hospice and foster combined) to care for terminally ill dogs. Franklin and her dedicated band of volunteers find homes with loving families and cover the cost of palliative care. Sometimes dogs given two months live much longer. I can also relate to that — my beloved Jazzy was given two months to live with her cancer diagnosis, but she lived another two years, largely because she had great care and a loving home.
You can vote for Muttville through Dec. 6 up to 10 times per day on Facebook, Twitter, or on the CNN website (cnn.com/specials/cnn-heroes) for a maximum of 30 votes combined using all three platforms. The winner will be announced during a televised special, CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute, on Sunday, Dec. 11 at 5 p.m. Pacific Time. Each finalist receives $10,000, and the winner takes home the grand prize of $100,000. You can meet the mutts on weekends from noon to 4 p.m. at Muttville headquarters (255 Alabama Street at 16th). For more information, visit muttville.org. …
SERVICE DOG KICKED OFF MUNI
Last month a reader sent me video of a San Francisco police officer and a Muni supervisor confronting a man with a service dog on a cable car as the dog lies calmly across the man’s lap.
According to a Facebook post by Gina Tomaselli, who took the video, the cable car driver refused to continue the trip as long as the dog was on board, even after the man identified the dog as a service animal. The Americans With Disabilities Act clearly states that service dogs don’t need to be wearing identification and only two questions may be asked: “Is this animal required because of a disability?” and, “How does this animal assist you?” According to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) policy regarding service animals on cable cars, animals may be “on the owner’s lap on the exterior of the car,” which is exactly what was happening in this case.
In an Oct. 31 interview with San Francisco Examiner reporter Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, owner Tad Tadesse says he and his service dog, Rosie, have been removed from Muni vehicles more than 20 times, but certainly not because of Rosie’s behavior — when Tadesse visited the Examiner office, Rodriguez says that Rosie “sat, twirled, hugged, shook hands and gave kisses on command.”
Paul Rose, spokesperson for the SFMTA, told the Examiner the operator “did not feel safe,” but “at no point was service denied.” Tomaselli says otherwise in her Facebook post, writing: “Cop insists that this man get off the cable car (run by SFMTA) because, according to the dog owner, the driver is afraid of his pit bull service dog — and refused to operate the cable car unless the dog owner got off the car — even after he presented written documentation of the dog’s status.”
Tadesse didn’t have to show documentation, but he did. He also complied with all the rules, as did Rosie. So let’s face the facts: If Rosie were a golden retriever, this incident never would have happened.
Whether the driver was indeed “afraid of pit bulls” is irrelevant — he violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing transportation to Tadesse and his service animal.
I hope the SFMTA is upping their training on this issue, and teaching drivers that breedism (service dog or not) is never O.K.