Monday Wag 7/6

SOS to MD Gov.: Save our Swans - Animal welfare advocates delivered thousands of petition signatures to Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley seeking an immediate moratorium on the slaughter of mute swans. Conservation agency officials blame the swans for contributing to environmental problems in the Chesapeake Bay. Supporters, led by the Humane Society of the United States, contend the charge is nonsense with 500 million pounds of pollutants flowing into the bay each year and fewer than 500 mute swans left in the state. In 2003 there were 4,000 swans. They are also challenging the reported methods of killing the swans where conservation officers shoot swans near their nests and lifelong mates or capture them and crush their necks, using no anesthesia, with a bolt cutter-like device. Among those making a case to save the swans is talk show host and Maryland native Montel Williams who sent a letter to O'Malley asking that the mute swans be allowed to live out their lives in peace.

Shelter bargain days - In New Jersey, Burlington County Freeholders have reduced the cat adoption fees at the Burlington County Animal Shelter to $20 (down from $45) until July 24 as part of their yearly Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month promotion to place more pets. Kittens too young to be spayed or neutered may be adopted during the promotion at a reduced fee of $10 (down from $60) plus a $10 deposit refundable when the kitten is brought back for the procedure at no charge or submission of proof that the kitten has spayed elsewhere. Dog and puppy adoption fees are reduced annually during August. The Animal Shelter is located on Academy Drive in the County Complex off Woodlane Road in Westampton. For more information, call the shelter at (609) 265-5073 or visit the website.

Paws in the pews - Every Sunday is take your dog to church day at one congregational church in Cape Cod. Pastor Rachel Bickford started the "woof 'n worship" service at Pilgrim Congregational Church in North Weymouth, Mass., last October in an effort to bring the joy of animals into her church. The idea has taken off and helped fill the pews each Sunday. Bickford, whose two cockapoos, 16-week-old Indy and 12-year-old Tugger, accompany her to the altar each week, says she was inspired by a favorite verse, Psalm 148, which reads, "Let all wild animals and small creatures and flying birds praise the Lord."

Court Docket watch - The Pennsylvania SPCA has filed two additional counts of animal cruelty against embattled former kennel operator Derbe Eckhart following the seizure of 22 sick or injured dogs and cats last week. The seizure came one day after the state removed 216 dogs at Almost Heaven Kennel in Emmaus. Eckhart still had nearly 200 animals or birds on the property, when the Pennsylvania SPCA arrived at the property the day after the June 23 raid. PSPCA officials counted 87 birds, 45 cats, 22 horses, six pigs, four monkeys and two rabbits in addition to the 25 dogs Eckhart was allowed to keep, according to court records reported by the Morning Call of Allentown. The 22 animals, including 18 exotic breed cats and four dogs, seized by the PSPCA are being kept at the organization's Philadelphia shelter as evidence. Eckhart's pre-trial hearing on more than 100 counts of animal cruelty and dog law violations stemming from a raid last October is scheduled for July 21 in the Lehigh County Court of Pleas.

In other PSPCA news, the shelter has rehired a veterinarian almost four months after he was fired. Ravi Murarka was dismissed amid a controversy over treatment he gave outside of the shelter to pit bulls housed in a kennel that was the focus of a dog fighting probe. New shelter director Sue Cosby said after talking to supporters of Murarka, who worked at the shelter for 18 years and was the PSPCA's medical director at the time of his firing, she decided it was appropriate to rehire him. The Philadelphia Daily News has the full story.

Beware the tall grasses of summer - And you thought ticks and fleas were the biggest summer hazard in the great outdoors? A Johnstown area Beagle survived an attack by a poisonous snake thanks to her quick-thinking owner. Freckles, a 3-year-old beagle, was bitten by a timber rattlesnake last month while walking with her owner in a meadow. In a race against the clock, James Yurasek pulled the snake off the dog (somehow avoiding a bite himself) and drove to a distant vet hospital because the local hospitals had no venom. Freckles hung on and after extensive treatment, including morphine, IVs and a blood tranfusion, and is expected to survive. The Johnstown Tribune Democrat has more.

Tune in here at 1 p.m. on Thursday for the next in our popular series of live chats with animal experts. This week Bucks County resident Leigh Siegfried, director of behavior and training at Opportunity Barks joins us. Siegfried is a certified animal trainer who specializes in shelter animals and puppy mill survivors. Set a reminder »