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May 24, 2015 - 8:38am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Flyball, sports, dogs, animals, pets, batavia.

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It's an adrenaline rush to see one of his border collies racing through four jumps, grabbing a tennis ball and streaking back to him, said Hamburg resident Peter Russell, who was in Batavia on Saturday to compete in a biannual flyball competition at the Fairgrounds.

Flyball is a dog-racing sport. Teams are comprised of four dogs and four handlers. Each dog runs down a track, jumping over four hurdles, hitting a platform at the end of the track, which releases a tennis ball, and then the dog runs back through the hurdles with the ball. The race is a relay, so once the first dog returns, the next dog runs the next leg.

The sport was created in California in the late 1960s and has grown to international proportions.  

Russell is a member of the Buffalo Wings Flyball Team, which has won national championships.

More than 15 teams competed yesterday, with dogs and owners traveling to Batavia from throughout the Northeastern United States and Canada.

The exhibition hall at the fairgrounds on Saturday was a cacophony of yelps and yaps and a whir of flashing fur.

"I think people enjoy the sport because of how quick it is," Russell said. "Races come down to hundredths of a second."

It's also a social sport, said Cindy Henderson, a resident of Massachusetts and regional director for the North American Flyball Association.

"You're with four different people," Henderson said. "That's what's fun about it. You're working with a whole team of people. It's not like other sports where you're just one handler working with a dog. You're a team."

Each member of the team has a specific role. The lead dog needs to have stamina since false starts can mean multiple trips down the track before there's a legal start. There are the middle leg dogs who need to be fast and agile, and then there's the anchor dog, who ideally loves to race and has the competitive drive to overtake another dog if the team has fallen behind. There also needs to be a height dog. The height dog is the smallest dog on the team. The shorter the dog, the lower the hurdles for the team.

Russell and his wife own 13 border collies. Four of them are retired and nine of them race. They're also breeders.

Border collies are particularly well suited to the sport, Russell said.

"It gives them a job to do," he said. "Border collies are bred to herd sheep, so they need a job to do. Their job is to go get the ball and come back to you and tug on their toy. In essence, that's their job for the day. It gives them some mind stimulation, because it's a difficult sport to learn and master and it gives them the physical stimulation because they're running over four jumps, hitting a box, coming back, tugging on the tug when they get back to you."

Alissa Schwab, of Amherst, owns a Jack Russell terrier, the height dog for the Buffalo Wings.

"I got started because obedience training wasn't enough for Jack Russell terriers," Schwab said. "The Buffalo wings needed a fast height dog and they came to training and spotted him and he was hired."

She's been racing for seven years now and now owns three Jack Russells.

"It's great for my dogs," she said. "They look forward to it. The community of people from our region is just fantastic and the racing is good."

The owners enjoy the race. The dogs enjoy pleasing their masters and getting a treat at the end of the run, usually a tug on a rope, but maybe something a little more tasty.

"They like to be rewarded for doing things they love," Schwab said. "You're part of the reward. They want to come back to you."

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May 16, 2015 - 3:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in dogs, animals, batavia.

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The Seneca Siberian Husky Club, which is based in Rochester, held its show today at Falleti Ice Arena.

Above, Shira Barkon, of Pennsylvania, with Jewel.

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Rick Church, of Michigan, with Sadie.

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Jan Haring, of New Jersey, showing Trooper for judge Dr. Richard Hideman.

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April 27, 2015 - 9:16am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, animals, pets.

Kelly Rapone's daughter is worried sick about the whereabouts of her kitten, who has no experience as an outdoor cat. Tully is missing in the Bennett Heights area of Batavia. Tully is very friendly, but doesn't have a collar on. Tully "walks funny" because of a cerebral disorder. If you've seen Tully, can locate Tully or have Tully, call (585) 727-4737.

April 22, 2015 - 10:42am
posted by Howard B. Owens in animals, elba, byron, missing pets.

Hank is missing. Hank is 6 months old and escaped from home on Transit Road in Elba/Byron two days ago. If found, or with other helpful information, call (585) 297-0088 or (585) 490-3335. A reward is offered for Hank's return.

March 24, 2015 - 11:41am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, animals, cats.

A small platoon of volunteers could deal with the army of stray cats in Batavia, the City Council was told during a long discussion of the issue Monday night.

Three representatives of the pro bono animal program at the SUNY Buffalo Law School recommend a trap, neuter, vaccinate and return program that they say has been successful elsewhere, even in small towns in Western New York.

West Seneca provides an example, said Joseph Smith, a law student working with the pro bono program. That community instituted TNVR and it made a huge difference.

"You can have as fast as a year turnaround," Smith said. "You can get direct results and significant results within a year."

The results include fewer nuisances from cats and fewer stray cats.

Problem cats fall into two categories -- community cats, which are cats who were once domesticated, but somehow became ownerless, and feral cats, which are cats born to a homeless cat and never domesticated.

Smith, along with fellow student Nicole Komin and Vice Dean Kim Diana Connolly, outlined the program's benefits, especially when compared to alternatives.

Stray cats will always be with you, both Smith and Komin emphasized. If you try to capture them and keep them, they'll overwhelm any such system. If you try to kill them, other strays will just move into the territory.

Cats tend to go where they can get food and shelter, be it a cat lover who feeds them, scraps from a restaurant or plentiful prey. If all the cats are removed from an area of food and shelter, other cats will just take their place.

TNVR solves that problem by returning non-breeding cats to those their former haunts.

Once fixed, cats fight less, howl less and spray less, making them much less of a neighborhood nuisance.

And if you can eliminate the breeders, there are fewer feral cats and eventually fewer community cats. They never disappear from a community, but over time, their numbers are greatly reduced.

The life expectancy of a homeless cat is seven or eight years.

Assistant City Manager Gretchen DiFante invited Smith, Komin and Connolly to speak with the council because she's been tasked with coming up with a program to deal with stray and feral cats.

Council members expressed an interest in learning more and supporting a task force to study the proposal further. 

Such a program could be implemented at no cost to the city because there are volunteer and community groups that can be tapped to help set up the program and take care of the task of trapping cats and getting them neutered and vaccinated before they're returned to the location where they're trapped.

Cats who have been through the program get a notched ear so they're identifiable as neutered, and once released, they've learned about the trap and will never allow themselves to be captured that way again, Smith said.

March 17, 2015 - 11:42am
posted by Howard B. Owens in animals, nature, Genesee County Airport, snowy owl.

Rebecca Grela shared this picture she took Saturday of the snowy owl at the Genesee County Airport.

January 7, 2015 - 11:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in animals, Bethany, Genesee County Park, wildlife.

Deer in the southeast part of Genesee County have figured out that if they hide out in the county park they are not going to get shot at, which has led to an overpopulation of deer in the park, causing problems for the county's forestry management efforts.

County officials are considering -- and the discussion is still in early stages -- allowing a limited number of hunters to hunt deer in a portion of the park during bow hunting season.

"We're still working on the actual nuts-and-bolts details of the plan," said Tim Hens, county superintendent of highways. "It hasn't even been presented to the parks advisory committee yet, but I can tell you it would be very limited in nature in terms of not being through the entire park. It would be limited to specific areas of the park to avoid obvious conflicts with bicyclists and hikers and horseback riders and everything else that goes on down there. It is a multi-use park and the safety of everybody is obviously paramount."

The County Park covers about one square mile in Bethany. It was established in 1915 as the first county park in New York. The land was purchased in 1882 in order to procure cooking and heating wood for what was then the county poorhouse. Various efforts to plant trees in the park took place over the next two decades, and by 1935 nearly 170,000 tress had been planted.

The deer hunting plan is being drafted by an ad-hoc committee comprised of the parks supervisor, affiliated agencies like the Department of Environmental Conservation, wildlife and forestry experts, and members of the Genesee County Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee.

The plan would be presented to the advisory committee when completed and if the committee approves it, it would still need approval by the County Legislature.

"Speaking in very general terms, the initial concept calls for a fee-based lottery draw for hunters who will have access to limited regions within the park for limited period of time during regular bow season," Hens said. "Hunting will be bow-only. Focus will be on deer management and there will be an initial emphasis with disabled vets and youth hunts."

The hunt would likely take place for more than one season, Hens said, but whether it became a perpetual event would depend on how successful it was at knocking down the deer population in the park. Letchworth, which is significantly larger, has an annual deer hunt for the same reason, but since the county park is smaller, an annual hunt may not be necessary.

Hens said the ad-hoc committee is interested in community feedback on the proposal and there will be a public information meeting on the plan before it is presented to the Legislature.

January 5, 2015 - 1:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in animals, alexander, pets.

The man who shot a neighbor's dog on New Year's Eve won't be arrested, Sheriff Gary Maha said today.

Maha released the information report on the incident and in a statement the neighbor said he had started carrying his .357 Magnum that day because the dog had become increasingly aggressive toward him.

Another neighbor, a 78-year-old man, who said he saw the incident, told Deputy Bradley Mazur that he saw the dog charge across the shooter's yard and heard the dog growling and believed the dog intended to attack the man. He then heard two gun shots, but didn't see the dog get hit.

While Maha made no statement about why there will be no arrest, he shared a copy of Agriculture and Markets law, which says there is no liability when a person has a reasonable belief that he or she is being attacked by a dog and then kills that dog.

The dog's name was Pepper and she was owned by Greg Gass, a resident of Dodgeson Road, Alexander.

The Batavian first broke the news of the incident after the Gass family created a Facebook page called Justice for Pepper

The Gass family does not believe Pepper was an aggressive dog.

"She was the sweetest little thing," Jen Gass said. "She played with a little 5-year-old who pulled her ears and would play roughly, and Pepper never did anything about it. She played with other dogs and never had a problem. I know she's a big dog. She looks like a big dog and people can be intimidated, I guess, but she didn't have a mean bone in her body."

In his statement to police, the man who shot Pepper said the dog had been coming onto his property more frequently.

He said the day before the incident, Pepper, a bullmastiff, had been in his yard and acted aggressively toward him and his two grandchildren, ages 7 and 8. 

Once the dog saw me, it became aggressive towards me by barking and growling at me and snapped at me," the man wrote. "I was yelling and pointing at the dog to go home and I was concerned for my safety as well as my grandchildren. I then heard my neighbor, Greg, who is the dog owner, calling the dog's name. The dog did not leave right away when Greg was calling it to come home. I only yelled at the dog and I did not kick the dog or make any other physical contact. The dog ran towards the front yard and Greg was in the back yard. The dog never actually went to him. This was not the first time Greg's dog had been on my property. The dog was more aggressive with each time it was over here."

That incident convinced the man to start carrying his gun, he said.

He said he went out to his shed at about 12:34 p.m., New Year's Day, and the dog started to run directly at him and was barking and growling.

"I pulled out my gun and I yelled at the dog, 'go home, go on,' and the dog never stopped running at me," he said. "I was in fear for my own safety and took two steps backwards. The dog was about three feet from me and lunging at me and I shot the dog. I shot two rounds at the dog and I believed that the first round was in the upper chest just under the dog's neck. The second round was in the front of the dog's head."

Greg, he said, yelled over, "Did you just shoot my dog?" The man said he did.

Greg came over and asked the man, "When did you start carrying?" The man told him, "since yesterday when your dog did the same thing."

Mazur reviewed a surveillance video of the incident and wrote in his report that he consulted with Assistant District Attorney Melissa Cianfrini and provided his interpretation of what the video showed and shared what he had been told by the shooter and the witness. Mazur said Cianfrini advised him there was no crime committed and that the neighbor had a right to protect himself.

January 2, 2015 - 4:22pm
posted by Sarah Noble Moag in animals, Dairy Farm, outdoor work, machinery, truck driving.
Company Name: 
Synergy LLC
Job Type: 
Full-Time

Primary Goal: To maximize cattle feed efficiency, milk production and profitability

Operational Tasks:

December 26, 2014 - 2:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, animals, outdoors, birds, Genesee County Airport.

Here's one of the snowy owls out at the airport in a photo by Dylan Brew, of Schoen Productions.

December 16, 2014 - 11:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, animals, crime, pets, volunteers for animals.

Via The Batavian's news partner, WBTA:

A man walking a dog on East Main Street sometime two weeks ago reportedly stomped a cat to death and Volunteers for Animals is offering a $750 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the culprit.

"The owner of the dog sent the dog after the cat and the cat was being thrown up in the air," said Wendy Castleman, with the volunteers. "Then the man stomped on the cat, and according to the examination by a local veterinarian, the cat had numerous injuries caused by the dog as well as a broken spine and a crushed skull caused by the stomping."

The incident occurred around 6:30 p.m., Dec. 3, Castleman said, in the area of 600 E. Main St., Batavia.

"We see a lot of neglect at the shelter but this is different in that it is a very violent act," Castleman said. "We all found it extremely disturbing that someone would do this."

The volunteers initially offered a $500 reward, but through a donation this morning were able to up the reward to $750.

Batavia Police encourages anyone with information to call their confidential tipline at 345-6370.

December 9, 2014 - 2:18pm

A pair of snowy owls have returned to the Genesee County Airport. Jim Burns sent in these photos. Burns said he and other members of the Batavia Photo Club have been out photographing the pair, whom they dubbed George (above) and Martha.

December 4, 2014 - 10:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in animals, alexander, pets, lost pets.

Phoenix is missing somewhere in the Brookville and Hunn roads area of Alexander. She was last seen at home about 5:30 p.m. but got out of the house somehow.

She is sick. She has breast cancer and it is spreading to her lungs. She needs medication daily.

Phoenix is 9 years old, an English setter that is black and white. She is very friendly.

If found, contact Edna at (585) 813-2997.

October 20, 2014 - 12:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in animals, byron, pets.

Bobbie Jo M. Klycek found this beagle wandering in her backyard this morning. She lives on Lymon Road, Byron. She left a message with the animal shelter, but took the dog to work with her this morning (she works in Batavia). If this is your beagle, call her at (585) 507-5656.

UPDATE: It appears the owner has been located.

October 7, 2014 - 7:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, animals, crime, pets.

Fox'r is ready to go home. Whose home, we don't know yet, but it won't be the home of Nina Kelso.

In City Court today, Kelso finally surrendered ownership of the boxer, who has been living at the Animal Shelter since being found on death's doorstep at Kelso's former residence on Hutchins Street more than nine months ago.

He can now be adopted into a forever home by a local resident.

While Fox'r has put on weight -- he's up to 84 pounds -- and regained his strength, he's also been fidgety and nervous while confined most hours of the day to a cage at the shelter. He likes people and wants to be around people, volunteers say.

The volunteers at the shelter have taken to calling him "Skully" and "Boyfriend" and they've been eager to see Kelso's court case completed so he could find a new home.

Concern for the dog is one reason the District Attorney's Office agreed to a plea bargain in the case, ADA Robert Zickl told Judge Robert Balbick in City Court today.

"There's no reason for the animal to continue being confined to the shelter," Zickl said. "It should be adopted out and that is what we prefer to do because it's in the best interest of the dog." 

Kelso entered a guilty plea on an Alford basis to one count of torturing an animal.

An Alford plea means she concedes she would likely be found guilty by a jury, but does not admit to the facts of the prosecution's case against her.

Today's proceedings started with Kelso's attorney, Fares Rumi, laying out his understanding of the plea agreement offered by the people.

The agreement was a guilty plea to torturing an animal, no fees for his care up at the shelter and no jail time.

Balbick shot back that he wouldn't necessarily agree to the terms at sentencing.

"I would have to look at her background, a pre-sentence investigation, the facts of the situation and decided if no jail would serve appropriate justice," Balbick said. "I can't do that blindly. I know nothing about your client except that she is charged with torturing an animal."

Looks of shock and horror passed over Kelso's face, who sat at the defense table in a black blouse fiddling with a long silver chain draped around her neck. She appeared close to tears.

After some whispers between her and Rumi, some more back and forth between Rumi and Balbick, Balbick suggested the attorneys proceed with the planned suppression hearing.

Rumi had made a motion to get thrown out any statements Kelso made to Officer Jamie Givens the day she responded to an animal cruelty complaint at 142 Hutchins St. on Feb. 4.

Givens found Fox'r at the top of a common stairwell (shared by two apartments). Food was strewn everywhere, there was no water, and it didn't appear that Fox'r even had the strength to raise his head, Givens testified.

He was so emaciated his ribs were showing.

Minutes after Givens arrived on scene, Kelso came up and walked up the stairs and spoke with Givens.

Rumi argued that Kelso should have been read her rights before speaking with Givens. An argument Balbick would later reject saying that Kelso wasn't in custody at the time and her statements were voluntary. 

Kelso told Givens, Givens said, that Fox'r had eaten either cigarettes or some chemical that made him sick and cause sudden weight loss. Kelso reportedly said she knew Fox'r was close to death and that her brother-in-law was supposed to pick him up the next day and take him some place and shoot him to death.

Through the entirety of Givens testimony, Kelso sat silently shaking her head "no."

After the testimony, both attorneys met with Balbick privately.

When they came back into the courtroom, Rumi met with Kelso privately. They all then approached the bench and Rumi said Kelso had agreed to the terms.

Balbick again emphasized that he retains the option to reject her guilty plea when she comes in for sentencing Jan. 6.

Through tears, Kelso said she understood.

As the details of her guilty plea and the process were discussed, Kelso stood next to her attorney nearly sobbing, but mostly holding it together.

When Balbick asked her if she was ready to surrender the dog, Kelso could barely form the word "yes" with her mouth, started to sob briefly and looked straight up at the ceiling.

Seconds passed, and she managed to sob, "yes."

An animal control officer at the back of the courtroom began preparing the paperwork.

The animal shelter is located at 3841 W. Main Street Road, Batavia. Phone: (585) 343-6410. Applications for adoption are being accepted immediately.  

Around the time of Kelso's arrest, another Batavia woman, Lauren K. Pellegrino, also also arrested for allegedly mistreating her dog, Nessa. Pellegrino was scheduled to appear on her case at 1:30 p.m., and as of 4 p.m., she had yet to show up in City Court. She missed a previous court appearance, as well, and eventually turned herself in on a warrant, according to court officials. The court was attempting to contact her attorney this afternoon. Nessa remains confined to the shelter.

CORRECTION: we originally wrote "no fine." Kelso could be fined up to $1,000. The plea relieves her of responsibility for shelter fees. However when Balbick informed her she could be fined Kelso said she had been willing to pay for Fox'r's care.

September 7, 2014 - 3:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in animals, pembroke, pets, indian falls.

Deb Hill's chocolate lab Maggie has been missing since yesterday.

Deb said Maggie may have been scared of yesterday morning's weather and tried to follow her husband to work.

In the Indian Falls, Route 77, Phelps Road area.

She has a silver chin.

UPDATE: A reader has helped reunite Deb and Maggie.

August 26, 2014 - 5:46pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in animals, outdoors, nature.

I was walking along the edge of a meadow last week hoping for pics of butterflies and wildflowers. The last thing I expected to come across was a pair of water snakes. Very large water snakes. Both specimens stretched over 40 inches in length.

Until this day, all water snakes I've encountered were either in the water or at the edge of a lake, stream or pond, their preferred habitat. These two were more than 20 yards from a pond loaded with frogs. A stone's throw in the opposite direction is a narrow, sluggish, alga-covered stream filled with tidbits on the water snake's menu.

Okay, so this pair of snakes was a bit out of their juristiction. No big deal. But a couple of days later I came across them again in the same location. And a third time less than a week later, same thing. Oddly enough, each time I saw them, the smaller snake, if you could call it that, was nearly stretched out while the darker, obviously older snake, was tightly looped, its head hidden in the meadow grass.

Northern water snakes mate around April - June and give birth between August and October. Could the larger of the two have been a female ready to give birth. Was the other the papa or might it have been hanging around hoping for an easy meal? For what it's worth, once the offspring are born there is no nurturing, young are immediately on their own.  

The Northern water snake is active both during the day and night and their prey list quite extensive. Mice, meadow voles, crayfish, frogs, fish, birds and other snakes just to name a few. In turn, the water snake is preyed upon by hawks, owls, herons, fox and possums. On the other hand, given the size of the water snakes pictured here, they may have little or nothing to fear except man.

The meadow and nearby fallow fields, now rife with wildflowers, were teeming with ground nesting bobolinks less than two months ago. I wouldn't be surprised if this pair of well fed serpents took advantage of the nesting season and helped themselves to eggs, fledglings and perhaps adult bobolinks caught off guard. 

This is the larger of the two doing its best to remain concealed. The cloudy  appearance of its eye indicates its getting ready to shed its skin. With age, the water snake's tell-tale markings begin to fade and eventually they will appear dark brown or black.

Though non-venomous, the northern water snake is a feisty sort, it will strike when cornered and bite repeatedly if handled. The bite of large water snake can be painful and its saliva contains an anticoagulant which will cause the bite to bleed profusely. In the South they are often mistaken for copperheads and water moccassins and as a result are sometimes killed on sight.  

August 16, 2014 - 6:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, animals, pets.

When Baxter speaks he doesn't just say "woof." He says, "I love you." That made him Genesee County's Top Dog in the first-ever video dog trick contest sponsored by The Batavian and WBTA.

Baxter is owned by Joyce Zaremski

Here's Baxter's winning video.

August 15, 2014 - 2:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in animals, outdoors.

Pulled into my driveway this afternoon and saw a flash of yellow dancing through my sunflowers. There were two yellow birds -- finches, I think, eating seeds. I managed to get a photo of one before they took flight.

August 14, 2014 - 9:20am
posted by Howard B. Owens in animals, byron, pets.

Stefanie and Kevin are hoping you can help them find Zoe. She's been missing for a week now. This is an older picture. She's put on a little weight since it was taken. Her home is in the Byron area. If you've seen Zoe or have Zoe, call (585) 548-9961.

UPDATE Aug. 15: Zoe is home safe and sound, according to her very happy owners, Stefanie and Kevin!

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