Monday wag: Dog park scuffle, Racehorses rehabbed, Twain on cats

A knife-wielding robber stole a floor safe containing about $1,700 from a city animal-control office run by the Pennsylvania SPCA and then fled in one of the agency's red trucks. My colleague Peter Mucha reports the man arrived at the Animal Care and Control Team office on W. Hunting Park Ave., about 3:55 a.m. and claimed he had a sick dog. Inside the facility, he put a knife to an employee's neck and demanded money, police said. The thief then took the unbolted floor safe and made his getaway in SPCA truck 303. The money was receipts from adoptions, licenses and other fees collected over the weekend. The employee was uninjured.

The future of a Montgomery County dog park - the result of an odd bequest by a late attorney - is being threatened by too much poop and not enough scoop. An excess of excrement at the Upper Providence dog park and a debate over how to prosecute the offenders has torn a community apart. The uproar is the subject of a story by my colleague Jeremy Roebuck in today's Inquirer.

Another Pennsylvania thoroughbred racetrack has made a commitment not to allow its horses to be sold to auction where they could well end up at a slaughter plant in Canada or Mexico. The operator of Penn National Race Course outside of Harrisburg and horse trainers there have partnered with a horse rescue in Ohio to provide a second chance for retired thoroughbreds.

Under the program, which started with a $25,000 grant last month, New Vocations, an Ohio-based organization will work directly with horsemen to help place retired racehorses into new careers as pleasure or show horses or pasture pets. On December 1 trainers began paying a $10 dues assessment per starter to help fund the New Vocations program. Earlier this year, Penn National, North America's largest racetrack operator, announced it would revoke stall privileges for any owner or trainer who knowingly sells a horse for slaughter.

Philadelphia Park launched its retired race horse program last year. The first such program of its kind, Turning for Home provides both a stick - owners of horses housed at the track may no longer sell them to auction and a carrot - the adoption program will help place all retired horses. The program is sustained through a portion of the entry fee.

An effort is underway to bring back Philadelphia Police Department's mounted unit, which was disbanded in 2006 because of budgetary reasons. Officials said the unit had been effective in controlling large crowds and patrolling parks. The department must raise about $2 million to fund the program and care for 10 to 12 horses. So far $150,000 in state and private grants has been raised. To learn more about the program, visit But a Philadelphia-based animal rights group, which is fighting to end the carriage horse trade, says it is opposed to reviving the city's mounted unit. Peace Advocacy Network says exposing horses to the traffic and other hazards of the city streets is inhumane.

Looking for a great way to keep up with animal news in southeast Pennsylvania and New Jersey? Try signing up for SHARE, a Yahoo email group managed by  animal advocate Maureen Koplow. Maureen posts a smorgasbord of news daily, including news and events, lost pets and all manner of requests for help from members of the animal community.

Attention cat lovers: Did you know author Mark Twain was a compatriot? America's greatest humorist shared his home with many felines until his death and was a keen observer of their mysterious ways. His words and spot-on sentiments live on at