Say It Isn’t So…

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) has really stepped in some doggy doo-doo this time by donating a large sum of money (six figures) ostensibly in support of puppy mills.

In December, 2013 Phoenix, Arizona city officials passed an ordinance prohibiting pet stores from selling dogs obtained from commercial breeders. The ordinance is aimed at undermining the business of puppy mills, the large scale commercial breeding facilities that serve as the primary source of puppies trafficked by pet stores.

Frank and Vicki Mineo, the owners of a chain of Arizona pet stores called Puppies ‘N Love, have filed a federal lawsuit in response to the Phoenix ordinance. Fearful of losing their business, the Mineos have claimed that the city of Phoenix overstepped its bounds. A judge has granted an injunction prohibiting Phoenix from enforcing the law until the case is further evaluated.

It appears the Mineos have low friends in high places, helping them fund their lawsuit. Please remember these names: The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) is one of the largest pro-puppy mill lobbying groups in the country. Two members are Ryan Boyle of the Hunte Corporation and Joe Watson of Petland. And then there is the APPA, the leading not-for-profit trade association made up of more than 1000 pet product manufacturers. Their mission is to “promote, develop and advance pet ownership and the pet products industry…” The voice of the APPA, Bob Vetere, President and CEO, tells us, enthusiastically every year how much money we Americans are spending on our pets.

The APPA has donated a large sum of money to support the Mineos in their legal battle against Phoenix. Is that really a good use of APPA money, Mr. Vetere? Why did you feel that the APPA needed to become involved in such a controversial case?

In response to the APPA’s involvement with the Mineo puppy mill case, Vetere released this statement: “We all want to see puppy mills eliminated today. But America’s pet lovers have made it clear that banning the sale of dogs and cats at local pet stores is not the best way to do it. What this poll tells us is that pet owners want tougher breeder standards so that they can be confident that dogs and cats are raised humanely and in the best interests of the animal.”

In her recent blog, Speaking For Spot, Nancy Kay, DVM responds to Vetere’s statement: “Attention Mr. Vetere! The poll you refer to appears to be a complete farce aimed at duping the public while protecting the best interests of the for-profit businesses you represent. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the regulatory body in charge of promoting “tougher breeder standards” has failed miserably to improve the conditions for puppy mill dogs. The USDA makes progress one millimeter at a time, when what is needed is one mile at a time. Additionally, efforts to enforce existing USDA guidelines are abysmal at best. Lastly, Mr. Vetere, what is wrong with tackling the puppy mill issue with a multi-pronged approach? Why not institute tougher breeder standards while, at the same time, eliminate the sale of pet store puppies?”

By the way, there have been several pet stores across the country who have voluntarily stopped selling puppies and changed their business model. They are now successfully partnering with local shelters and rescue groups to offer homeless pets for adoption. That’s a good, pro-active start to eliminating puppy mills, without any assistance from the slow-moving arm of the government. Independent business owners taking a stand.

On a related note: Miami has placed a six-month moratorium on “new” stores selling dogs or cats. Commissioners were pressured by Don Anthony, spokesperson for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, who stated that retail pet shops “get their dogs from puppy mills…” The plan, for now, is to “research the effects of the moratorium in order to reach a decision on whether or not to institute an outright ban.”

To view a list of other Florida municipalities that have instituted retail pet sale bans, visit this page, created by Best Friends.

The New Barker would like to know your thoughts on the poll that Bob Vetere and Dr. McKay referred to earlier in this post, and the “tougher breeder standards” the USDA is attempting to set up. We would like to hear from breeders and shelter/rescue group volunteers. What are your thoughts on how puppy mills can be eliminated?

The Dogs of Summer.

In the world of Minor League Baseball, 2008 may have been the year of the dog, according to Benjamin Hill of MiLB. On January 18 of that year, the Greensboro Grasshoppers announced that the collar of Miss Babe Ruth, the club’s popular Black Labrador, had sold for $290 in a charity auction. Miss Babe Ruth was billed as the youngest bat dog in the history of the Minor Leagues when she made her on-field debut in Greensboro in 2006.

Also on January 18, 2008, Maverick the Wonder Dog became part of the Brooklyn Cyclones front office. And just three days later, the Trenton Thunder announced that Chase, their popular Golden Retriever, had fathered a litter of puppies.

Chase was actually acquired at the end of the Thunder’s 2002 season. Over the years, he became a disc-chasing community icon. Fans lined up at every game to obtain his paw-tograph. Even Derek Jeter was among Chase’s long list of close and personal friends. Chase retired in 2013, and soon after passed away. His son, Home Run took over as the lone bat dog for the Trenton Thunder. He even brings water out to the umpires during games. Check out the Chase Video tribute. What a ham.

Major League Baseball is catching up. Earlier this year, the Milwaukee Brewers adopted Hank, a stray dog found near the MLB team’s Phoenix spring training facility. He was hungry and scared, and appeared to have been hit by a car.

Healed and healthy, Hank now travels with the team. So, now we’re wondering if he’ll be with the team as they meet up to play the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on July 28, 29 and 30. We would love Hank to meet Bailey, a Florida Ambassadog for shelter dogs everywhere.  Her favorite team is the Tampa Bay Rays, and she loves Joe Maddon (but, has yet to meet him). She even channels Maddon by wearing her own Ray Ban glasses while listening to #Bruce Springsteen. In fact, Glory Days might be Bailey’s favorite song.

Just a few years ago, Bailey was 12 hours from being euthanized when a volunteer from the Humane Society of Tampa Bay discovered her, sitting in the back of a crate. She was shivering, scared and had painful tight mats all over her fur. Bailey’s story is like thousands of other dogs waiting to be adopted. Luckily, today she lives a good life, traveling everywhere with her humans, including to Tropicana Field during the Bark in the Ball Park Dog Day. She has also been the Doggie Dining Diva for THE NEW BARKER, contributing as a “restaurant reviewer.” (#Laura Reily and #Jeff Houck, watch your backs…).

We know how supportive the Rays have been to local rescue organizations such as Pet Pal Animal Shelter. Could a meet up on the pitcher’s mound between Bailey and Hank occur during the Rays vs Brewers game to show a unified support for shelter dogs everywhere? Stay tuned. THE NEW BARKER plans to lobby for it, and we’ll need our fans’ voices and votes to make it work. Please visit the Event page at THE NEW BARKER on Facebook. Simply cast your vote for either Bailey or Hank by writing a comment as to why you think one or the other (or even both) should step up to the pitcher’s mound on July 30 to throw (or goober) the first pitch. Then share the page to your family and friends. It’s all in good fun to help bring more awareness to the Adopt Don’t Shop philosophy.

Chase, the official bat dog for the Trenton Thunder.

Chase, the official bat dog for the Trenton Thunder.

Miss Babe Ruth made her debut with the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2006.

Miss Babe Ruth made her debut with the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2006.












Tampa Bay Rays fan, Bailey and her Joe Maddon Ray Bans.

Tampa Bay Rays fan, Bailey and her Joe Maddon Ray Bans.

Hank, mascot for MLB's Milwaukee Brewers, running the bases.

Hank, mascot for MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers, running the bases.

Ice Cream Is The Answer. (Who Cares What The Question Is).

A scoop of Toasted Coconut and a scoop of Valrhona Chocolate.

A scoop of Toasted Coconut and a scoop of Valrhona Chocolate.

Have you ever been to an ice cream tasting? Ulele presented a delicious experience for the palate as well as the eyes to a lucky few of us last week in Tampa. An official opening date for this fabulous new restaurant has not yet been announced. When it does open, look out, foodies. All details point to success for this newest Gonzmart family project.

Located in the heart of Tampa Heights with a wonderful view of the Hillsborough River, the restaurant (and brewery) will focus on all things local, including fresh fruits, veggies, seafood and “other proteins” from Florida. Richard Gonzmart and his head brewmaster Tim Shackton are even developing a specially-crafted beer to be named after Richard’s German Shepherd Dog, Rusty. And, in keeping with all things sustainable, they are contemplating the creation of dog treats from the spent brewing grains. Is there a Ulele dog treat tasting event in the very near future? Be sure to stay connected to THE NEW BARKER for details.

But, let’s get back to the important subject at hand – the ice cream tasting. American author Ernestine Ulmer is best known for her quote, “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” And that’s just exactly what we did last Wednesday at Ulele. Imagine the smooth, creamy, cold and refreshing scoops of six (yes, six) different flavors of ice cream, served up in a half coconut shell. Turns out Mr. Shackton’s other passion is making homemade ice cream. Lucky for all of the taste testers, he did not disappoint. Valrhona Chocolate. Naviera Espresso Swirl. Ugandan Vanilla Bean. Florida Mango. Florida Wildflower Honey. And my personal favorite – Toasted Coconut – transported me to another time.

Savoring each spoonful, with my eyes closed, I saw a little girl visiting grandparents in Puerto Rico with her mother. Details and presentation are just as important as the food itself to fulfill a unique experience. So, the delicious memory of a street vendor handing me a half coconut shell filled with creamy coconut ice cream on that sunny day so many years ago, was perfectly recreated last Wednesday evening at Ulele. It is no coincidence that Richard Gonzmart’s philosophy for his new venture is to honor past generations while creating memories for the next generation.

We were each given a form to rate the ice cream. And, oh my goodness, that was tough. But, hey that’s the price a hardworking ice cream taster must pay in order to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s creativity in the kitchen. Understandably, I did not require dinner that evening. Which now reminds me of an Erma Bombeck quote, “Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

Looking out onto the Hillsborough River from inside Ulele.

Looking out onto the Hillsborough River from inside Ulele.

Arrowheads that Richard Gonzmart has been collecting over the years, have been infused into the bar tops.

Arrowheads that Richard Gonzmart has been collecting over the years, have been infused into the bar tops.

Richard Gonzmart giving the taste testers a little background on the inspiration of Ulele.

Richard Gonzmart giving the taste testers a little background on the inspiration of Ulele.

Every Picture Tells A Story. Or, Does It?

It’s tough to photograph a shelter dog and make him look good for adoption. How do you make one black dog stand out from all the other black dogs? And, a Pit Bull by any other name is still a Pit Bull, right?

With thousands of dogs coming through Florida shelters every week, what is the significance of one photo on a shelter’s website to help get a dog noticed? How does the photographer capture the look on a dog’s face that will hopefully lead to adoption?

Donating countless number of hours, professional photographers have been asking that question of themselves for years. Thank goodness, through their tenacity, learned skills and creativity we’re seeing much more colorful, professional-looking portraits of shelter dogs. It has become a wonderful marketing tool for shelters and rescue groups alike, ultimately leading to more adoptions. But, make no mistake about it, this is not an easy task to accomplish, nor is it for the squeamish. 


Photographers encounter shelter dogs that are often scared, sometimes dirty, certainly not well-groomed, most definitely excitable, skittish, and unable to look at a camera. Before setting up the shot, a photographer may wonder what the backstory is on the dog. Owner-surrendered after years of serving up love and companionship to a human who can no longer care for him? Perhaps found wandering the streets for who knows how long; hungry for food, starving for friendship? What could possibly be going through the dog’s mind as it’s walked down a concrete hallway among other barking dogs; confined to a cage until, who knows what will happen next?

Sometimes, the photographer will be able to read a little bit about the dog’s history on the clipboard attached to his cage door. Of course, it’s never a happy story. So it takes a lot of deep breathing to regain composure. After all, it’s pretty difficult to set up a good photo when the shooting eye is blurred. 

To help give shelter dogs the second chance they deserve, photographers like Seth Casteel offer up best photography practices through his One Picture Saves program. He was doing this long before his Underwater Dogs project took off. Another photographer from Budapest, Hungary is creating surreal scenes to help change the perception of shelter dogs. The project, Help Dogs With Images, is the creation of photographer Sarolta Ban who has close to 200,000 Facebook fans. Now through June she is asking her fans to upload images of shelter dogs. To increase the photo’s visibility, she uses her Photoshop skills to create a montage. Some of her photos appear below this post.

All of the photographers who contribute to The New Barker dog magazine donate their time and money to photograph shelter dogs, capturing their most positive attributes. It is an honor to work with this talented group of people who make their living as professional photographers, including St. Petersburg’s Danette Morse, Clearwater’s Laura Allen, Boca Raton’s Tina VaLant, Miami’s Jaime Seymour-Newton and Orlando’s Donna Miller.

Some, like Laura Allen, will set up shop several weekends a year for professional photo sessions. Using her mobile studio, she donates a portion of her sales to non-profits like the SPCA of Tampa Bay and Animal Coalition of Tampa. “These organizations provide a great service to our community. It’s important to me to support them,” said Laura.

When you see these photographers around your neighborhood working, thank them. They are doing their part to help increase adoption rates, thereby reducing euthanasia numbers in Florida shelters – one photograph at a time.


Mia was once a shelter dog. She was photographed by Laura Allen Studios.


Shelter dog, Photoshop montage by Sarolta Banilla of Budapest, Hungary.


Shelter dog, Photoshop montage by Sarolta Banilla, photographer.


Shelter dog in a Photoshop montage created by Budapest, Hungary photographer, Sarolta Banilla.



Cover of Magazine Fetch’s $5,000 Winning Bid.

Every cover of The New Barker features an original piece of art by a different Florida artist. Over the last seven years, a cult-like following among dog and art lovers, has bestowed collector’s item status on many of the original works of art chosen for the magazine’s covers.

Generally, the cover art is selected from a substantial portfolio of artists on file at the publication’s office. “The process is daunting, terrifying and exciting, all at the same time,” said Anna Cooke, Editor-in-Chief. “There are so many talented artists in Florida. Our cover is the cornerstone of our vision—The Art Of Dog —and as such, awarding it is the most important decision we make. Of course, as ‘the cover as art’ tradition has become our defining signature, so too have expectations (in our minds) that each cover live up to that billing.”


Anna and her partner/husband Steve Cooke, who is the Publisher of the magazine, donated an upcoming cover to the Humane Society of Sarasota for a fundraising event. During the live auction portion of the 8th Annual Paws on the Catwalk, the item was the first to be presented on the auction block. A starting minimum bid of $1,000 quickly grew to $2,500, igniting a bidding war that electrified luncheon participants. The winning bid of $5,000 drew a spirited round of applause and a chorus of cheers. The frenzy continued as guests enjoyed outbidding each other on auction items such as cruises, spa packages, vacation getaways and adoptable pets. Yes, a couple of homeless dogs from the shelter found their forever homes as bidders opened their hearts as well as their wallets. So far, more than $110,000 has been raised during Paws on the Catwalk.


Jill Raleigh, whose husband sits on the board of the Humane Society of Sarasota County, kisses her new puppy. Her winning bed for the dog, who was pulled from a high kill shelter in Mississippi, was $1300. All the money went to the Humane Society of Sarasota County.

The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota played host to the sold-out event that included specialty boutiques for shopping, a luncheon, entertainment and a fashion show. Co-chairs Chris Voelker and Alex Miller are already working on next year’s event, promising to raise the bar in attendance and money raised.

After meeting with the winner, who has three Golden Retrievers, a photo shoot will be scheduled. The photos will be given to a selected artist to begin working on the cover art, scheduled for a 2015 edition of The New Barker. Afterwards, the original portrait will be presented to the winner of the auction item.

The New Barker is a Florida-based lifestyle magazine all about dogs and the humans who love them. Feature stories cover where to stay, play, dine, travel and just have fun with dogs in Florida. Currently in its eighth year of publishing, the magazine reaches upwards of 30,000 readers in print each quarter.

Fire At Animal Coalition of Tampa.


The lobby of Animal Coalition of Tampa, damaged by fire in an early morning fire, Saturday, April 19, 2014. Photography by Anna Cooke for The New Barker.

Jazz, Boy and Mama Kitty lost their lives during an early morning fire that heavily damaged the building that houses Animal Coalition of Tampa (ACT). Arson is suspected. The three cats were the facility’s very own longtime mascots, official greeters, and stress relievers.

Less than two weeks ago, with the help of the University of Tampa’s film department, a video was created to celebrate the clinic’s accomplishment of performing 80,000 spay/neuter surgeries in eight years. It was posted to ACT’s Facebook page just after their recently successful fundraising event, Spay-ghetti and No Balls. In the film, employees and volunteers are dancing throughout the bright halls of the clinic. The song everyone is dancing to  is Happy, by Pharrell Williams. This morning, the scene at the clinic was anything but, as shocked employees, unaware of what had happened, started showing up for work.

Outside, the sadness was as palpable as the soot and water inside. On the minds of everyone, especially Pam Duval, the organization’s comptroller, were Jazz, Boy and Mama. One of the first to arrive as fire engulfed the building, she told a firefighter about the cats and that they might be found in the administrative area. Moments later, firefighters brought her all three cats, wrapped in blankets. Smoke inhalation was the cause of death.

Frank Hamilton, co-founder of the clinic, was still in shock as well. Eyes red, lips trembling, he was making every attempt to keep it together. “Right now, I’m just trying to figure out what our next plan of action will be,” he said. HIs wife, Linda, who is the clinic’s executive director, remained at home. Already devastated by the loss of the three cats, everyone knew the destruction would be too much for her to see at the moment.

Within hours of the fire, the animal advocacy community, including the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and SPCA Lakeland, had already reached out, offering assistance. When we asked what the community could do to help, Frank said, “Understand that we will open again. We are going to open again.”

For now, the clinic will remain closed. For updates, visit their Facebook page or their website –

More photos below.




Buzz and Jazz painted on an exterior wall of ACT’s clinic in Tampa by mural artist, Anna Hamilton.


Victory, Victoria.

Come meet Victoria in Orlando's Lake Eola Park, February 8 during the 20th Annual Paws in the Park for the SPCA of Central Florida. Photograph by Anna Cooke for The New Barker.

Come meet Victoria in Orlando’s Lake Eola Park, February 8 during the 20th Annual Paws in the Park for the SPCA of Central Florida. Photograph by Anna Cooke for The New Barker.

The variety of dog training options available to humans is about as vast as the abundance of tea varietals. And just like tea, the different training methodologies range from subtle to strong with varying results. A polarizing subject, each training method has its detractors and supporters.

Victoria Stilwell has been described as America’s no-nonsense trainer in press releases. An author and television personality best known as the star of Animal Planet’s It’s Me or the Dog, Victoria is, in fact one of the most approachable and forthcoming humans we have encountered in the dog business. She has always made herself available to speak with us, including last year, when she took time out of her busy schedule to meet with us in Orlando.

She is a petite woman with a large, endearing presence. Her megawatt smile engages those around her in easy conversation. As she is listening, she looks directly at the person talking to her, even though a dog is usually competing for her attention. When asked about various dog training methods, Victoria responded, “As a scientist friend of mine is fond of saying, ‘the great thing about scientific fact is that you are free to disagree with it, but you’ll be wrong.’ Well, the argument may be raging on, but the debate is over. The world’s top scientists and behaviorists as well as the most respected veterinary institutions are now warning the public against using compulsion training. They are encouraging dog owners and trainers to use positive reinforcement methods instead.”

Victoria and a colleague, retired police lieutenant Jim Crosby, are often brought in by police departments to help investigate severe maulings or human fatalities by a dog. “I help Jim physically evaluate dogs that have killed people as well as working through crime scene pictures or going to crime scenes to determine what happened. The work can be very distressing but it is needed in order to find out the truth of what happened and why. It also provides data that can be used to educate dog owners everywhere so these preventable tragedies never happen again.”

We put a lot of pressure on our dogs to be friendly and well-mannered with everyone they meet, in and out of the home, even if socializing makes them feel uncomfortable. “Although we have the freedom to choose who we want to greet and who to avoid, our dogs almost never have that luxury,” said Victoria. “Some people just do not understand how threatening and uncomfortable it is for some dogs when their personal space is invaded by a stranger. Of course, because we desire and expect our dogs to be adaptable and emotionally stable at all times (high expectations that even we humans can’t live up to), when dogs react negatively to ‘friendly’ human interaction, they are punished for antisocial behavior,” Victoria added.

Meet Victoria Stilwell on Saturday, February 8 in Orlando’s Lake Eola Park during the 20th Annual Paws in the Park. The event is a benefit for the SPCA of Central Florida and will include vendors, food, entertainment and the Disney Kids & Family Fun Zone. Dock Diving by Splash Dogs will also be featured.